Despite drop in crime, some say they’re on edge

Although crime in the 41st Precinct has dropped dramatically over the past 25 years,fear of crime still nags at residents and keeps them from enjoying their lives fully, according to interviews with about a dozen people on the streets of Longwood in recent weeks.

Ana Faure, a Bryant resident, remembers an incident three years ago when a cabbie was shot and killed near her children’s school.

41st Precinct still ranks as one of city’s 10 highest crime areas

Anna Faure, a hairdresser, has lived near the corner of Bryant and Lafayette for 12 years, but after all that time, she only feels safe when she drives in the neighborhood. She never walks.

“It started getting worse three summers ago, and last summer a cab driver got shot right up the block from my kids’ school,” Faure said. “They say they cleaning up, they make changes, you know — they make it look good. But in reality at night time, you got to be careful.”Although crime in the 41st Precinct has dropped dramatically over the past 25 years — assaults are down 37 percent and robberies are down 79 percent since the ‘90s — fear of crime still nags at residents and keeps them from enjoying their lives fully, according to interviews with about a dozen people on the streets of Longwood in recent weeks. And Hunts Point/Longwood still ranks as one of the top 10 highest crime areas in the City of New York, according to NYPD data.

Garrison Avenue resident Jacob Santos says crime in Hunts Point is commonplace.

“I’m from the South Bronx, so crime is natural,” said Jacob Santos, a clothing designer and restaurant cook in his 20s. “Seeing violence and all this crazy stuff, I’ve been seeing it since I was a little kid, so it’s nothing new to me. It feels natural to me, to be honest.”

As the special election for the area’s City Council seat approaches, neighbors say that crime is one of the most important issues that candidates should address. Street robberies for coats, phones and just-cashed checks are a part of life. Less common but still persistent are shootings and street assaults.

According to the 41st Precinct’s Compstat reports, there have been 114 crimes in the year to date, including 43 felony assaults and 59 burglaries and robberies. Longwood resident Celia Quinteros raised her family in this neighborhood but still doesn’t feel safe.

“We are always looking around,” she said. And Tylise Lynch, a Kelly Street resident, said she takes her two kids right home after school and heads straight into the house. “I don’t hang out outside around here.”

The majority of residents interviewed felt like they don’t see enough of a police presence on the streets, yet they acknowledged that the police from the 41st Precinct do a good job when they can.

“I would not like my kids to see things, so I don’t take them out too much,” said Lizet Mendieta, who lives on Fox Street. “I don’t take them to the parks, because they’re not safe.”

Wanda Salaman, the executive director of Mothers on the Move, a grassroots activist organization on Intervale Avenue, said the solution is not just more cops, but a police force that is actively involved in the community. When she was growing up, she said, the cops knew the names of the neighborhood kids and would yell at them over the loudspeaker to go home, by name.

“There was more communication then,” she said. “They know us now, they know who we are, but they don’t really know us.” The problem is multi-layered, according to Salaman, but the greatest impact on crime is the economic health of the neighborhood and the city. Even if young men go through one of the vocational job training programs her organization offers, there’s still a challenge at the end. “Once they finish, there’s no jobs.” Unemployment in Bronx County is the highest of the city’s five boroughs, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Taxi driver Shamsul Alama says the streets of Hunts Point are safe.

Shamsul Alama, a taxi driver who has lived on Garrison Avenue for three years, said the police were doing an excellent job, and had even helped him track down a customer who refused to pay.

“I never feel any trouble in the area,” Alama said. “I’m just working, sleeping, make money, happy family, that’s it.”

James Chase, president of the Hunts Point-based economic development firm Statrup Box #QA and vice president for marketing and communications of the Majora Carter Group, echoed Alama’s sentiments. “It is a very tight-knit community,” Chase said. “The only time you hear about real crimes is guns and things like that, gangs and drug dealers sorting out their differences. The 41st Precinct is doing an excellent job.  The council does not need to concentrate on this.”

But even neighbors who shared Chase’s sentiment felt that crime should remain a focus of the next councilmember. “There is a lot of love, regardless of issues and problems,” said Jessica Muniz, who works for an alarm company and has lived in the area all of her life. “But who wants to see people dying? Nobody wants to see that.”

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