A spike in violent crime and a decreased police presence has Greenpoint residents breaking out the walkie talkies.
Neighbors lined up to sign up for a neighborhood patrol group after a community meeting organized by local politicians to address the mayhem produced few answers but plenty of anger among residents who said cops are missing in action.
“I sit out in front of my house for hours and no police cars go down my street,” said neighborhood resident Alice Wilkowski. “The cops should be protecting us.”
More than 100 people showed up for the community forum on crime organized by City Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg) and attended by Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Williamsburg), 94th police precinct Commander James Ryan, and three assistant district attorneys.
“We should not be living in fear,” said Levin, who lives on Morgan Avenue in Greenpoint.
The block patrol would be the neighborhood’s first in years and would consist of volunteers taking dedicated shifts to keep an eye out for unsavory acts.
The meeting followed a highly publicized series of home invasions and sexual assaults in Greenpoint, as well as a pistol-whipping in broad daylight that left a man hospitalized. There have been 72 felony assaults in the area so far this year, compared to 54 this time in 2012, according to police statistics. There have been 12 rapes and one murder in the same period, up from five and zero last year, the stats say.
Residents said that not only were cops out of sight, they were missing in action. One business owner said that the alarm went off at her store and police never came.
“What if my store was actually broken into?” asked Bethany Vogel, owner of Raised by Wolves, a boutique on Franklin Street. “I am afraid for everybody.”
Many in the audience blamed the uptick in crime on homeless men from the 200-bed men’s shelter on McGuiness Boulevard. The shelter opened last fall after more than a year of protests from neighbors.
Ryan said that crime may be up and police numbers may be down, but it is not as bad as it seems, claiming that some of this year’s crimes happened within the homeless shelter, although he could not cite a specific number. Ryan also said that his precinct has shrunk along with the city’s police force, which has lost 3,500 officers since 2002.
Ryan said that he needs more cops assigned to the 94th precinct, instead of relying on overtime scheduling and assistance from other precincts, as he does now. Ryan said that the precinct currently has four uniformed cars on duty per shift, as well as one or two unmarked cars.
Assemblyman Lentol pledged to get tough on crime by re-introducing state legislation that would classify home invasions as a more serious crime than burglary.
Despite the uptick in violence, overall recorded crime is actually down in Greenpoint and Williamsburg as compared to last year.