January 2, 2012 Update: In November we reported on anecdotal reports from around the 34th Precinct regarding police officers' discouraging crime victims from filing police reports. The N.Y. Times reported on the same topic this week, suggesting that it has become a city-wide problem as the Mayor and N.Y.P.D. struggle to continue the city's remarkable, annual reduction in crime.
The 34th Precinct Community Council meeting was attended by over one hundred residents, numerous elected officials and a dozen police officers.
As usual, Captain Barry Buzzetti gave a 30-minute overview of crime in the precinct. Fortunately, there is not much to report from Hudson Heights. Snatching of cell phones and electronic devices continues to be a problem, particularly around subways. New electronic tracking software allows owners and police to track thieves and the captain recommended the software. There were at least two burglaries on Pinehurst Avenue. These burglaries originated from open fire-escape windows and unlocked doors. Finally, car break-ins on upper Cabrini Boulevard continue to be a problem. Overall, the Captain expressed pride in a 21% reduction in crime in the precinct in the past few months and a larger increase in arrests. He concluded that the "community in general is a safer place."
I was the first speaker at the "open-mic" session that followed. I relayed widespread community concern that the precinct is significantly understaffed and that, since the captain's arrival, has discouraged the filing of police reports as a means of reducing crime statistics. The captain acknowledged that the precinct has fewer officers than a decade ago. But he feels that the precinct has made it through budget cutbacks better than others and has benefited from infusions of temporary officers to deal with crime waves like this summer's assaults on women in Inwood. He vigorously disputed the suggestion that officers were discouraging police reports and encouraged persons experiencing this situation to speak to him directly. Despite these reassurances, speakers that followed me expressed similar concerns and the attendees responded with clapping.
Although my comments this evening were based on anecdotal reports, I have heard the same complaint from at least four distinct and reliable sources. Certain officers in the precinct are clearly discouraging residents' filing reports. This is clearly unacceptable and undermines the credibility of any reduction in crime rates. Let's hope this trend is temporary.
The next community council meeting will take place in January 2012 (the December meeting is more of a Christmas party).