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Bronx Connections: Faces of Gun Violence (Part 3 of 5)

Image Courtesy of David Cruz, Norwood News.

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WFUV News, in partnership with The Norwood News and BronxNet Television, presents a five-part series on the impact gun violence has had on Bronx neighborhoods and the people who live in them.

The Multi-Prong Approach to Reducing Gun Violence in the 41st Precinct

Since the 1990s, gun violence in New York City, including the Bronx, has been on the decline. Its drop over the past two decades has contributed to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s declaration of the Big Apple being America’s safest big city.

City officials and experts attribute the recent drop in crime to neighborhood policing, an approach to law enforcement where officers are assigned to a very specific area in hopes of getting to know a community to prevent crime rather than to simply response to it. The hope, according to the NYPD, is to strengthen bonds between those who live there and those who patrol there. Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCOs) act as liaisons between the local police precinct and the community.

 

In announcing record lows for crime in 2018, de Blasio once again referred to New York City as the safest big city in America and attributed the drop in crime to neighborhood policing. “Neighborhood policing in New York City has defied the naysayers to become the model for 21st-century American law enforcement,” said de Blasio in a statement related to record-low crime across the five boroughs.

In Hunts Point, the number of shooting victims has dropped by more than 50 percent between 2008, when there were 33 total victims, and 2018, when there were 15 total victims. The decrease in Hunts Point aligns with a city-wide decrease in gun violence that saw a roughly 50 percent drop in victims from 1,634 to 815 between 2008 and 2018. Hunts Point is patrolled by officers from the 41st Precinct.

And while Community Board 2 district manager Rafael Acevedo attributed the drop in gun violence to the 41st Precinct’s neighborhood policing program, residents of Hunts Point see neighborhood policing as another tool that’s brought community together and lowering crime.

Jarett Adorno sees it, noting that the quality of life has been improving in Hunts Point. He works for a non-profit called Rocking the Boat that focuses on youth development through boat building, sailing and environmental science on the Bronx River.

“In a community like this, it’s a great outlet for people to do and learn skills that they wouldn’t learn elsewhere,” said Adorno. “It’s a real outlet to make a difference instead of going out and doing bad stuff. You’re working toward a greater goal.”

Non-profit groups and government services like food stamps that residents can use at a local farmers market stand among other quality of life improvements to the area. Adorno did acknowledge that there has been an increased police presence around where he lives and works. “Me personally, I don’t like cops, but I do have to say they’re doing a good job in this community. They’re keeping the crime levels down and that’s all I can really ask for,” said Adorno.

Chantelle Heredia lived in Hunts Point until she moved to Manhattan five years ago. She was passing through her old neighborhood on her way to the number 6 train and said the area has improved since she moved away. Heredia said she hoped that everyone in the community, including the police, could work together to set a good example for the young people around them. “I feel like nowadays the reason kids fall into the same type of habits is because they don’t know any better or don’t have people to teach them any better,” said Heredia. “And a lot of time in this type of area parents are working all the time so they don’t have the time to give kids the attention that they need.”

Acevedo also referenced programs like the NYPD Explorers—where young people are introduced to careers in law enforcements that help form relationships between younger community members and the NYPD. “We have developed a great relationship that has trickled down to the residents in the community,” said Acevedo. “Everyone is made aware that both black lives and blue lives matter here in this district, and the officers know if you treat people with dignity and respect you’ll get that in return.”

Acevedo said to achieve neighborhood policing in Hunts Point there are almost always members of the NYPD present at community board meetings and public events.

Despite the new programs and changes, some residents believe more can be done. Jazmine Cruz said she’s noticed more crime in the area recently and she doesn’t always feel safe walking home from school at night. “Not too long ago there was a car around here that was on fire, and around where I live someone got shot,” said Cruz.

Looking ahead, while Acevedo said he believes the district is the perfect example of neighborhood policing, they will build on the relationship they have already established with the 41st Precinct.

“Our numbers have been great. They’ve been decreasing a lot. And we take a lot of pride knowing that we’re in the South Bronx,” said Acevedo. “Knowing that at one point there’s always talk about police abusing their privileges and corruption. We can honestly say with pride that we don’t have that here in the 41st Precinct and part of it is because of the transparency with the community and the police.”

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