Deputy Inspector Andrew Tolson, commanding officer for the 68th Precinct, addressed locals’ worries of poor safety patrols at the monthly community council meeting on Oct. 19 after a string of break-ins spurred concerns of a “crime wave” in Bay Ridge and the surrounding neighborhoods.
In September and October, the area experienced a rash of thefts including a break-in at a local pizzeria, cars being broken into on Shore Road and checks being stolen from residents’ mail boxes, Tolson said. He added the nabe has experienced an increase in grand larceny with nine incidents occurring within the last week. Despite the recent reports, the actual numbers of crimes in the 68th haven’t changed much — burglaries are down 19% compared to this time last year, and the number of robberies has remained static. In comparison to citywide numbers, burglaries are up nearly 30%.
Despite the cops’ assurance that there was not a crime wave happening in the area, many audience members said they still feel unsafe in Bay Ridge.
“Families don’t want to walk on Third Avenue anymore,” one woman said.
Arguments got especially heated regarding the illegal marijuana dispensaries in the area — with many locals demanding the precinct figure out how to close down the shops. The state is yet to issue any licenses for the operation of legal dispensaries, despite the passage of the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act last year — and many Bay Ridgeites are upset by the shop owners’ blatant disregard for laws and bypassing of taxation.
According to the commanding officer, police are still navigating how to deal with the legality of marijuana usage and retail sales.
“We have to come together as a community and as police to combat this because this is something new,” Tolson said.
The precinct encouraged audience members to reach out to the District Attorney’s office with their frustrations and to play a part in stopping crimes from happening by being the eyes and ears of the neighborhood and alerting the cops if they see something suspicious.
“Cops can’t be on every corner. We try [but] I don’t have enough resources for that so cops are spread out throughout the whole precinct,” the commanding officer said, adding that the perception of crime in Bay Ridge day-to-day doesn’t always align with the reality.
One local, Daniel Hetteix, who grew up in the area and now works as a podcast host with Radio Free Bay Ridge, credited recent frustration to people’s misinterpretation of the data and statistics, specifically politicians.
On Oct. 21, Republican congressmember Nicole Malliotakis, who represents parts of southern Brooklyn and Staten Island, called for the state to reverse its bail reform laws in response to the recent robberies. The representative was joined by a number of small business owners who had recently been robbed or feared that their shops could be next.
In a statement to Brooklyn Paper, the congressmember doubled down despite Tolson’s claims, citing a rise in grand larceny, car thefts and sex crimes in the 68th Precinct (confirmed by the Police Department’s data tracker, CompStat), and applauding local police for working to address the “scourge of crime.”
“According to NYPD CompStat, major felony crimes are up 23% within the confines of the 68th precinct. Among the crimes seeing the biggest uptick are grand larceny, car thefts and sex crimes,” the congresswoman said in a statement. “We applaud the NYPD for working to address this scourge of crime but the fact is Albany needs to give our officers the tools and change the disastrous bail law if we want to see repeat offenders behind bars.”
Hetteix says government leaders like a former Republican city council candidate often play into people’s desire to be afraid by painting Bay Ridge as unsafe to garner donations and votes.
“As a resident, it’s really hard not to see all the crime wave stuff as political. It’s like there’s been a conga line of grifters for the last decade or so who see my neighborhood as an easily scared piggy bank,” Hetteix said. “What’s happening with this supposed crime wave has nothing to do with policy [but] has everything to do with people intentionally misusing data and statistics to scare people.”
After this relentless onslaught, we thought you might like to see those overall stats again. It might be hard to listen to all that noise, and still think crime continues to trend downward. But it does, and has been. (24/x) pic.twitter.com/V62ghI9duF
— Radio Free Bay Ridge (@RadioFreeBR) October 22, 2022
Councilmember Justin Brannan, who represents the neighborhoods patrolled by the 68th Precinct, and who was present at the Oct. 19 meeting, maintains that Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights are still among the safest places to live in the Big Apple.
“Your perception is your reality and I will never tell someone they aren’t experiencing what they are experiencing. No victim of a crime wants to hear about statistics that show how low crime is,” Brannan said. “Politicians who try to deny what people are experiencing are foolish but it is important not to lean into hysteria from the agenda media and demagogue politicians. Even with all we’ve been through together over the past few years, Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights are still some of the safest neighborhoods in the city.”
Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann told Brooklyn Paper that, while quality-of-life complaints have gone up, she feels that these concerns aren’t exclusive to Bay Ridge — and that many communities have experienced an uptick in crime over the last few years.
“We have had a number of quality of life concerns relating to people feeling unsafe,” Beckmann said, “Because when they’re shopping at local stores like bigger chain drugstores, it gives residents an uneasy feeling knowing that they have to ask shop keepers to get toothpaste that’s now under lock and key.”
Citywide, crime in most of the seven major categories — including rape, robbery, felony assault and burglary — continues to trend upward year-to-date, when compared to last year, according to NYPD data. (Murders, however, are down almost 15 percent compared to 2021.) Though the 68 is seeing similar rises in reported crime, Tolson said it’s worth noting the lower number of overall incidents in the precinct, when compared to others.