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Public housing crime up

Crime on the rise in NYCHA buildings despite city spending millions to improve safety

Cyril Josh Barker | 12/3/2015, 9:02 a.m.
Reports indicate that even with the implementation of a program costing the city $210 million, crime is up in a ...
New York Public Housing

Amsterdam News Staff

Reports indicate that even with the implementation of a program costing the city $210 million, crime is up in a number of New York Public Housing Authority developments.

Bronx City Council Member Ritchie Torres, who chairs the Public Housing Committee, said during a hearing last week that he questions Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety, unveiled last July, with the aim of cutting down on crime.

“Given the scale of the investment, how can we characterize this plan as a success when only eight developments saw a decrease in crime?” Torres asked.

City Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito and fellow Bronx City Council Member Vanessa Gibson are also among the elected officials who believe crime in public housing is on the rise.

The mayor’s action plan allowed the money to be used for community liaisons, crisis intervention, police, social services and more lighting and cameras in NYCHA buildings.

Numbers from the NYPD indicate that crime has increased in the Sonya Sotomayor Houses and the Edenwald Houses by more than 75 percent.

In a televised interview Monday, Torres said that while the mayor and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton boast about the city’s overall decrease in crime, safety in public housing remains an issue.

“The reality for public housing is different,” he said. “We do live in a tale of two cities when it comes to crime in public housing. Even though NYCHA accounts for 5 percent of the city’s population, it accounts for 10 percent of all felony assaults and rapes, 15 percent of all murders and 20 percent of all shootings.”

Torres added that the mayor only focused on the 15 worst housing projects when he launched his plan last year. Crime has gone down in seven of those developments, and decreased crime in some buildings have since been offset by increased crime in others.

“We need to update the plan to respond to crime spikes outside of those 15,” Torres said. “We need a more flexible approach.”

Torres pointed out that there are people in NYCHA buildings who should not be living there at all because of criminal histories. The process of evicting known violent criminals from public housing takes as long as one year.

The solutions, according to Torres, are creating better information sharing between the NYPD and NYCHA and expediting the process for evicting the worst offenders. NYCHA has already committed to cutting the eviction process down to two months.