The new commander in charge of the NYPD's Police Service Area (PSA) #4 talked with residents last night about a series of high profile violent crimes on the LES this past summer. It was Captain Tom Hogan's first Community Council meeting since taking over PSA4, which is responsible for protecting 40-thousand people in the city's housing projects. He said PSA4 has actually seen a 1.5 percent reduction in crime, year to date, compared with the same period last year. But Hogan added:
I'm a little concerned because in the past 28 days we're up significantly. Increases in violent crime are being driven by robberies in the Baruch and Wald Houses and we've found a concentration of drug activity in the Laguardia and Riis Houses. In 28 days in Baruch we've made 32 arrests, issued 97 court summonses. In the Wald Houses we've made 23 arrests and issued 36 criminal court summonses… We have representatives from the Narcotics Division here. About a week ago they executed two summonses for narcotics and drugs at the Riis Houses so we really are trying to concentrate our resources where we find our biggest problems. Guns are always an issue. In the past 28 days PSA4 has arrested three people for the possession of guns. Year to date we've arrested 10 people for the possession of guns.
Hogan also addressed the recent murder of Glenn Wright, a college student visiting his grandmother at the Baruch Houses, near Delancey Street. Noting that a suspect is already in custody, he emphasized that Reynolds was apparently not the intended target:
Some of you may be concerned about the stabbing death we had at Baruch… It was really a tragedy. But the victim, it was a case of mistaken identity. A 21 year old kid who had no criminal history was mistaken for someone else by one really bad guy who lives uptown… the victim was mistaken for someone else who had robbed one of the murderers' friends.
Later in the meeting, Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh also discussed the Wright murder and the more general concerns in the community that violent crime is on the rise:
I visited recently with the family of Glenn Wright. It is not the first time I have visited with the family of crime victims in our community. But there is a perception that we've had an increase in gang activity in some parts of our community. I don't know that the stats would show it, but there have been a few very high profile and very unfortunate incidents of violence. I just want to say that organizations like this (the Community Council) are on the front lines of figuring out how we can work together to solve it. Our police officers are really on the front lines, putting themselves at risk. But our office, we are trying to figure out ways we can be of assistance."
Recently, there has been increased media coverage of the crime wave in the neighborhood. It intensified after last month's murder of Taz Pagan outside the Forbidden City nightclub on Avenue A. While some people have suggested the tragedy could have happened in any club throughout the city, longtime residents point to a number of other incidents as proof that the neighborhood is becoming a more dangerous place. A recent New York Press story, "Fear in Alphabet City," made the point that gentrification has given a lot of people a false sense of security:
East Village residents of all ages, races and classes worry that bullets are flying with increasing frequency these days. Many
have lived east of First Avenue for 10 years or more, so they know what
a gunshot sounds like. Some claim that the crime statistics released
from the local Ninth Precinct do not adequately tally all the
At last night's meeting, several residents expressed similiar concerns. One woman who lives on Eldridge Street thanked the NYPD for cleaning up her block in the early summer, but said the crime and the drugs have returned:
Resident: Saturday we had an assault in the neighborhood late at night. The woman was screaming, he (a male victim) was knocked down on the floor. There were a lot of people around him. They were running into the building… They have to be consistent there because they're selling drugs in the neighborhood.
Captain Hogan: This happened on the same block?
Resident: This happened on Eldridge Street… the gentleman was knocked down on the floor. I don't know if he was dead or what but the woman was on the top of her lungs screaming. They assaulted him. They mugged him.
Hogan: Is there a lot of drug activity?
Resident: Yes, this is going on late at night, when people are asleep. People gotta go to work. They got nothing else to do so they go to the building and they sell drugs.
Officers said they were aware of the problems on Eldridge Street, that they made four arrests there last week and that they would stay on top of the situation. Hogan said an apartment was raided near the Campos Plaza Houses, three suspected drug dealers were taken into custody and, pointing to the "uphill battle" they face, all three posted bail ($20-thousand each).
Aida Salgado, a resident who's lived on the LES all her life, said "we're losing a lot of young people. It's really sad. People are afraid." Salgado said she and other parents are starting an organization called "Mothers in Action." Among their goals is to push for more activities and events for teens and young adults in the neighborhood.
Hogan, however, emphasized enforcement. He urged people to come forward with information about crimes they witness. "I really encourage you to talk to young people, to tell them they're not a snitch if they talk to police," he said.