Red Hook robberies making locals nervous

A series of armed robberies has left Red Hook residents on edge and fearful that danger — real or imagined — might be lurking around every darkened street corner.

Three incidents in a two-day span brought out locals en masse to the Feb. 24 meeting of the Red Hook Civic Association, which invited Captain Kenneth Corey, the commanding officer of the Precinct, to discuss the incidents, and try to allay residents’ fears.

At 9:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, a 56-year-old man was walking along Dikeman Street between Richards and Van Brunt streets when three suspects approached him, flashed a gun and instructed him to “throw all of your sh-t on the ground,” this paper has previously reported.

The victim did as he was told and the thieves ran off with $120, some credit cards and the victim’s driver’s license, cops said.

The next day, a similar robbery took place at Richards and Dikeman streets when three men pulled a gun on a 32-year-old man, flashed a gun and demanded the property. This time the victim refused, and the suspects ran off.

Also on Feb. 15, a trio robbed a man of his bicycle, and cops were able to track down one of the three suspects at the corner of Coffey and Conover streets the same day. The mugger was 14 years old, cops said.

“Three in a row is a pretty serious thing,” said John McGettrick, the co-chair of the civic group. And the actual number of robberies might actually be higher, he said. “Sometimes there is an unfortunate tendency not to report a crime that’s committed against you,” McGettrick said, adding that he has heard anecdotally that there was more than three recent robberies.

“Young people using guns to engage in criminal activity — that’s a bad combination,” he continued, “and that has heightened the level of concern.”

Corey said he understood the fear, and reacted quickly to the situation.

After the first incident, the precinct deployed extra cops to the area, a tactic that proved successful when cops nabbed a member of the trio the next day.“The additional resources resulted in the arrest Monday evening,” the top cop said.

And things may not be as bad as people think. For the year, robberies are down in the precinct by 15 percent, Corey said. “I think people have heard a lot of inaccurate information circulating,” he added. Since the arrest, there have been no new robberies in Red Hook, he noted.

The precinct, which encompasses Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Red Hook, Boerum Hill, and Gowanus, remains one of the safest commands in Brooklyn, third ranked citywide behind much less dense Breezy Point and the south shore of Staten Island.

Things are a far cry from the 1980s, when Life magazine dubbed the neighborhood the “crack capital of America.” Last year, there were three shootings in Red Hook, the lowest number since police data has been compiled in the CompStat system. “Compare that to 48 in Red Hook alone in 1993…” Corey said.

McGettrick said that while he doesn’t think the neighborhood will descend into the bad old days, he doesn’t want to take any chances. “We don’t want to see any slippage whatsoever,” he said. “And good police interaction with the community has contributed to a dramatic reduction in crime over the last 15 years.”

—With Tom Tracy