Property crime is way up this year in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill — fueling new worries that the tanking economy and rapid gentrification are creating a perfect storm for crooks.
On Wednesday, much of the neighborhood was consumed with talk of a cardboard box of human remains that was dumped on tony Washington Park, one of the nicest blocks in Fort Greene — temporarily overshadowing the real news in the neighborhoods: robberies have jumped by 7.6 percent and burglaries are up 18.6 percent in the 88th Precinct so far this year, even as overall crime is down 3.76 percent through Oct. 12.
Residents of Washington Park said the heinous act that created the human remains likely occurred elsewhere, but the bloody box did dredge up bad memories of when the neighborhood was one of the city’s most violent.
“This hasn’t happened since the 1970s,” said one resident of the two-block-long street on the east side of Fort Greene Park. “Back then, I came out of my building one morning and found a body hanging from a lightpost.”
No, crime is not back to that level by any stretch of the imagination, but elected officials and activists in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill remain concerned about the uptick in robberies and burglaries.
“I don’t feel less safe, but I’m more watchful,” said Suzanne DeBrange, a member of the Society for Clinton Hill and nine-year resident.
The muggings and break-ins, many of which are occuring in broad daylight, has partially eroded the gains in public safety since the 1990s.
Officers from the 88th Precinct were set to assuage worried minds at a town hall meeting spearheaded by Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) at Bishop Loughlin HS on Lafayette Avenue on Wednesday night, Oct. 15.
James said she is particularly concerned about crimes against students at the Pratt Institute in Clinton Hill and St. Joseph’s College in nearby Downtown — kids who may be at school, but have little experience in the school of hard knocks.
“Walking around with their iPods or computers and texting is not a good idea,” she said.
One victim of a recent mugging wishes said she shouldn’t have let her guard down.
“I knew the neighborhood wasn’t 100 percent safe,” said Jill Lee, whose iPod and purse were stolen last week at night by four teenagers less than one month after she moved from New Jersey. “I wasn’t completely oblivious.”
James said the 88th Precinct “has been responsive,” but her calls up the chain of command have not fared so well. She’s requested additional resources now that crime is spreading and the economy is sputtering — but NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly rebuffed her plea because her district has not been plagued by a surge in major violent crimes, James said.
(The NYPD did not respond to repeated inquiries from The Brooklyn Paper about this article.)
Some people have said it takes too long to file incident reports in the local precinct, which has actually led some crimes to go unreported. The temptation to skip the official complaint, which can take hours even for minor crimes, was perhaps unintentionally magnified when the Society for Clinton Hill developed a map on its Web site for individuals to post details about local crimes.
The Web page was meant to raise awareness about neighborhood safety, but it might end up reducing the official statistics — and therefore curtailing the very police protection that is needed now — if victims only register their incident online and not with the NYPD.
Sharon Barnes, another member of the Society, said her group strongly urges all crime victims to report their incidents at the 88th Precinct stationhouse on Classon Avenue.