Photo: Peter Gill. The 40th Precinct Community Council meeting at PS 5 in Melrose on Mar. 3.

Vehicle theft in the 40th police precinct, which covers Port Morris, Mott Haven and Melrose, is up 178% in the first two months of 2022 compared to the first two months of 2021, precinct representatives told a community council meeting Wednesday.

Burglaries are 108% higher than in the same months in 2021, but murders are down, from four to two, officers reported.

The council, led by volunteer community members, meets monthly with local officers to provide feedback and highlight concerns. About two dozen community members attended the session, and many spoke about concerns over rising crime and drug abuse.

Anthony Rullan, a 58-year tenant of the Moore Houses, said that homeless people and drug addicts had mugged two people and set fire to the stairwell in his building the day before.  He said homeless people had begun spending time in the hallways of his building after a construction project displaced them from St. Mary’s Park, where they used to hang out. Rullan said he had called the police, but had not seen a response yet.

Other Mott Haven residents said they have witnessed an uptick in cars using paper license plates, which are sometimes placed on vehicles after they have been stolen. 

Police Officer David Lugo said that a shortage of police manpower has hampered the precinct’s ability to respond to non-violent crimes, in some cases. However, he added that they will do their best to investigate suspicious vehicles.

“Don’t  leave anything in the car that someone could look in and want to take. Thought you left your wallet? Go check,” said Officer Sharonda Wade.

Two police officers, Stephen Oswald and Scott Pariona, were awarded “officer of the month” certificates for confiscating illegal handguns off the streets.

Gabriel De Jesus, the community council’s president, said he feels that new state policies like bail reform make the community less safe. 

“We’ve had a lot of issues, where an individual is arrested, but then they’re right back into the street doing worse,” he said.

P.S. 5 middle school’s principal, Danielle Keane, highlighted growing public use of marijuana.

“This school building is supposed to be a drug-free zone. But there is no drug-free zone,” said Keane. “They are smoking weed every day, standing outside the school building.  Our kids think it’s  a norm now.”

Keane said she hopes to hold anti-drug awareness rallies with community support.

De Jesus mentioned that the 40th precinct is recruiting clergy liaisons, including priests, pastors, and imams, to identify community issues to share with the police.

A representative from the Neighborhood Association for Intercultural Affairs said that they are helping tenants facing eviction to apply for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The eviction moratorium ended on Jan. 15, but tenants who have a pending application to ERAP are still protected from evictions.

A representative from Bronx Success Academies said that the group is opening a new school at 139th Street and Cypress Avenue.  Families interested in applying for kindergarten through fourth grade can register for an online informational event from 3-4 PM on March 16th by visiting

Community council meetings will be held on the first Wednesday of each month at P.S. 5 on 149th Street through June, after which meetings will be held at Lincoln Hospital.

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