Mayor drops in on Mott Haven

Mayor Bloomberg came to National Night Out at St. Mary’s Park in Mott Haven on Aug. 7 to praise police from the 40th Precinct for their efforts to bring down local crime rates.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg practices his broken Spanish with Esteban Rodriguez, an intern working for Congressman Jose Serrano (shown at right), at National Night Out in St. Mary

Bloomberg praises 40th Precinct at National Night Out

The mayor and the city’s top cop made a surprise appearance at St. Mary’s Park on August 7th to help celebrate National Night Out, an annual event intended to improve relations between police and the communities they serve.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack, commanding officer of the 40th Precinct in Mott Haven, whose officers have helped bring crime numbers down nine percent so far this year, the sharpest drop in the Bronx, he said.

“McCormack and the 40th have done outstanding work. Overall crime is down, and last June they led a huge bust in the nearby Moore Houses,” the mayor told the crowd, referring to an undercover operation on which officers from the precinct collaborated with federal and state law enforcement to take down a drug ring operating from the city housing complex.

For the year to date, the NYPD says there have been 831 major crimes reported in Mott Haven and Melrose, down from 948 this time last year. The NYPD counts the seven major crimes as murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and car theft.

Murders are down from 12 over the first seven months of 2011 to seven so far in 2012, police statistics show. Burglaries have also dropped, from 136 to 77 over the same period, and car thefts have fallen from 71 to 42.

The only major crime category that has experienced a significant uptick this year over last is robbery. There were 248 robberies through July 29 of this year, compared with 214 through the first seven months of 2011, a 16 percent increase that McCormack attributed to a sharp spike in iphone thefts.

But Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who accompanied the mayor, said the decline in overall numbers is little consolation to victims of violent crime. He emphasized the need to get illegal guns off the city’s streets.

“The dip in numbers means little to the families of Lloyd Morgan, 4-years-old, or 14-year-old Kemar Brooks, who were shot and killed,” said Kelly. “We have too many guns in the street and need your help. We rely on, and need you.”

Morgan was killed by stray gunfire at a playground on the Forest Houses basketball courts in Morrisania on July 23rd. Brooks was shot and killed at Haffen Park in Baychester on July 26th.

The NYPD says there were 46 victims of shootings in Mott Haven and Melrose between Jan. 1 and Aug. 5, exactly the same number as were reported last year.

Crowd reaction to the mayor’s appearance was mixed. Some seemed thrilled, while others said the visit was nothing more than window-dressing.

“This is just a show. He goes from precinct to precinct. It don’t better my community,” said Norma Allen, 55, a resident who came with her grandson and other family.

Another onlooker had an angrier take on the official visit.

“They suck! They take the law into their own hands,” said a young resident, who gave only his first name, Jose, while watching the festivities from his bike.

He complained that the annual event, while fun for kids, should aim higher.

“It’s good for them, but more has to change for us,” he said.

Tensions between police and Mott Haven residents have been high recently, as a result of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, which many minorities in Mott Haven say leads to police unfairly singling them out.

But some at the event were eager to enjoy the festivities and the food, rather than focus on tensions between police and residents, and others had an altogether more optimistic view of police-community relations.

“I never got stopped by the cops, said Lydia Martinez, 46. “My sons never got stopped. They have never gave me problems and only helped me when I needed it.”

“This even shows they are here to help, and we will all go a lot further working together than fighting,” she said.