A cache of confiscated scooters sits gated in front of the 40th Precinct station house on Alexander Avenue. Mott Haven Herald staff.

Scooter robberies have boosted South Bronx robbery numbers in the past couple of months, but arrests for all types of crimes are way up, a police representative told community members at the most recent Community Council meeting for Precinct 40.

Meanwhile, although several measures have been taken to improve safety in St, Mary’s Park in Mott Haven, just down the street from where the Council met on January 10, community members said more was needed.

As the Mott Haven community gathered in the cafeteria of PS/MS 5, Sgt. Brian Travis reported that police have been seizing scooters used by robbers to snatch purses and other items from pedestrians over the past few months. In 2023, 403 scooters and ATVs were confiscated in the 40th Precinct, he said.

“With the robberies, a lot of those were related to a new pattern that we have citywide,” said Travis. “They’re robbing other people for their scooters, they’re robbing other people for their phones, for chains, and a lot of them are utilizing scooters to do that.”

Summarizing 2023 crime data for the precinct, Travis said while murders were down by 20%, from 15 to 12, robberies were up by 20%, from 558 to 667.  Felony assaults rose from 853 to 1,026 compared to 2022, while grand larceny auto thefts rose slightly, from 305 to 340.

But 40th Precinct officers remained busy in 2023, he reported, making 7,203 arrests, a 25% increase over 2022.  In 123 cases, guns were involved and were confiscated, which he said was the highest confiscation rate in the Bronx.

The evening’s most discussed topic was the progress being made to improve safety in St. Mary’s Park.  Over the past year, more signage, lights and late-night patrols have been introduced to the park to improve the walkability and safety, Travis said.

But there were still calls for more signage to be posted along St Ann’s Avenue, and cameras to be installed throughout the park.

Community member Carmen Santiago announced that the volunteer group, Friends of St Mary’s Park, has been reactivated and discussions are underway to create a St. Mary’s Park Conservancy to raise funding for the park, similar to Manhattan’s Central Park Conservancy

“We want to be able to have yoga, walking, nutrition, running in the park,” said Santiago. “I’m giving ideas, but this is a community group. Whoever might be interested, I’m here.”

Friends of St Mary’s Park is also advocating for more health and social services in the park to make it a safer place for children.

The first meeting of the revived Friends group will be held Feb. 1 at 6 pm at Betances Community Center on 146th St.

Meanwhile, an audience member asked what police are doing to address a proliferation of vendors along 149th Street, making passage on the sidewalk difficult on both sides of the street.

“Most of them don’t have licenses,” she said. “You come up near Dunkin Donuts from the train, you can’t even turn right. Seniors in wheelchairs that have to go on the ramp to get on the sidewalk, they can’t….. It’s unsafe.”

She was told that while a police unit is assigned to the HUB, they have many other issues that often take priority.  Still, she was assured the issue would be looked at and that increasingly, the Sanitation Department is getting involved with overseeing vendors, particularly to ensure that any food confiscated goes to those in need.

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