Precinct among five citywide to test body cameras
The 40th Precinct is hoping its participation in a citywide pilot project will help boost the community’s trust in the cops who patrol Mott Haven’s streets.
The station house on Alexander Avenue is one of five precincts across the city, and the only one in the Bronx, that launched the NYPD initiative in December, asking nine officers from each precinct to volunteer wearing body cameras while walking their beats. In addition, one housing police unit in Brooklyn is partaking in the project.
The precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Lorenzo Johnson, said that for his cops to participate they have to be veterans of the precinct with a good track record of interaction with the community. Carrying the cameras has “helped defuse tension” in a few instances, Johnson said he has heard from his officers. He and two other senior officers are tasked with reviewing the footage retrieved from the cameras, which the cops wear on their shirt pockets.
Police are required to activate the cameras when they make an arrest or issue a summons; take a suspect into custody; stop a vehicle; and when a confrontation begins to escalate.
The city’s top cop, William Bratton, launched the initiative shortly after New Yorkers took to the streets to protest when a grand jury chose not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island last July. Tension created by the Garner case and compounded by the assassination of two cops in Brooklyn on Dec. 20, has led to a tightening of security at the precinct. Officers now stand watch at the front door of the stationhouse to screen visitors to the precinct.
Despite the drama that has unfolded in recent weeks, the 40th Precinct saw a significant drop-off in crimes reported in Mott Haven and Melrose in 2014. Robberies went down from 440 in 2013 to 402 in 2014; felony assaults dipped from 500 to 456; burglaries dipped from 215 to 138; and grand larcenies went down from 572 to 473.
One of the neighborhood’s hottest crime spots remains the Sin City strip club on Park Avenue and 138th Street, where two officers have now been assigned every night to watch out for the fights and violence for which the club has become notorious.
“When I meet with the owners, I always let them know it’s nothing personal, but I wish you weren’t here,” said Johnson, adding that as long as the clubs continue to abide by the state’s rules, they can continue to operate.
Despite the overall drop in crime numbers, police say, the precinct warns of an emerging problem: a theft of money orders and checks posted in mailboxes. Thieves, NYPD warns, have been stealing payments dropped in mailboxes around the city, and the South Bronx is no exception. The most recent hotspot, the precinct says, is the box at the corner of 149th Street and Union Avenue. Customers who have posted checks and money orders there have been victimized, police say. The safest way to ensure that payments go where they are addressed is to send them directly from a nearby post office, they stress, adding that it is always wise to use a folded over piece of paper to conceal the content of the envelope.