Increased media reports of stabbings and other brutal attacks in Sheepshead Bay may have created the perception of a violent crime wave; now statistics from the 61st Precinct show that violent crime is unquestionably on the rise.
Local officials have been reporting at civic meetings that crime is down in the neighborhood, most recently at Community Board 15. But the latest crime data show no overall change whatsoever in the crime rate as of this date, and a sharp spike in violent crimes compared to last year.
“If you see something call 911. No place is safe,” said an officer at the 61st Precinct who declined to give his name.
The most recent CompStat report, a weekly summary of major crimes produced by every precinct, records a zero percent change compared to last year in the total number of crimes in the seven major categories – murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto. However, a closer look shows that the overall number is a balance between a decline in non-violent crimes and a steep uptick in violence.
For example, felony assault – an attack that results in serious injury and may include a weapon – is up 90 percent for this year, with 38 cases since January 1. The precinct also recorded four murders, compared to none last year, and two rapes, compared to one. Outside of the seven major categories, misdemeanor assault incidents are up 20 percent, with 111 cases recorded.
Historical data paints an even more alarming picture: this may be our most dangerous year in at least a decade.
Compared with data from 2009 and 2001 – the years included in CompStat reports to measure two-year and 10-year rate changes – the numbers have increased for murders and felony assault incidents. They’ve stayed the same for rape. Misdemeanor assault charges were not recorded for CompStat comparisons before 2009.
Some of the numbers may be misleading, though. All four murders and at least one of the felony assault charges belong to Maksim Gelman, the knife-wielding madman who went on a 28-hour killing spree in February. Remove him from the picture, said one local leader, and you get much rosier numbers.
“Gelman was just an anomaly who is extremely disturbed, otherwise crime is at an all-time low compared to how it used to be,” said Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo. “I do not believe this neighborhood is less safe.”
Scavo, who is also the treasurer for the 61st Precinct Community Council, said she meets with police officials every other week and “crime is truly down.” She said the numbers don’t always reflect context, and that many of the crimes were domestic, not random. For example, a March 7 double stabbing on Sheepshead Bay Road near Gravesend Neck Road was a dispute between acquaintances over money. The one recorded rape was a domestic affair between a husband and wife.
“Sometimes the numbers are up, but not necessarily meaning that strangers are in people’s homes and crime is rampant,” Scavo said. “I’m not feeling that. I’m really really not.”
But there certainly are a number of other random attacks. The most recently reported was March 13, when a man got out of his car on Sheepshead Bay Road and stabbed someone during a road-rage style brawl. A police source told Sheepshead Bites that there were as many as four other stabbings that weekend alone. However, the statistics don’t break out “random” attacks from others, so it’s difficult to know if the area truly is becoming more dangerous.
It’s for that reason that Scavo doesn’t believe the issue of violent crimes needs to become a priority at local civic meetings. She and Deputy Inspector Mastrokostas – the commanding officer of the 61st Precinct – both appear to agree that rim and tire thefts are the only consistently increasing crime category, and it’s there that the NYPD is focusing its efforts. Scavo noted at the recent Community Board 15 meeting that our neighborhood is leading the borough in that crime category, and the precinct has launched a special Midnight Conditions Team to thwart thieves.
The 61st Precinct Community Council holds meetings every second Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. (locations vary). Meetings are open to the public and are an opportunity to express concerns about crime issues to the Deputy Inspector and other local leaders.
– With additional reporting by Alexandra Ushakova.