Residents Discuss Crime Problems With New Precinct Commander
HARLEM — Shootings, loitering and quality of life crimes are plaguing Harlem neighborhoods, concerned residents told the 28th Precinct's new captain.
Capt. Kevin Williams took command in August. Former commander Deputy Inspector Rodney Harrison is now in charge of the 32nd Precinct.
In his first meeting with the community Wednesday, Williams heard from residents concerned about an increase in crimes such as gunfire, drug-dealing and dangerous dirt bike riders. Residents also raised other concerns such as individuals using drugs in broad daylight, dice games that turn violent and noise complaints.
In response to the concerns raised by residents, Williams said he needed specific information about crimes. He used the example of two well known drug dealers — Lorenzo “Fat Cat” Nichols and Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff— in South Jamaica, Queens, where he grew up.
"Everyone knew what they did and how they did it, but no one would tell the police," Williams said.
"I need the information. If I don't have the information, I can't act."
One resident said he had provided very specific information about drug sales on his block of 116th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, to no avail.
"I text information to the detectives about the height, weight, where the drugs are stashed and who the lookout is," he said. "It seems like the activity has increased. Nothing has been done."
Williams said he would act on the information.
"I'm a results oriented person," he said. "I want everyone here to have an acceptable quality of life."
There were two homicides in the precinct in August. On Aug. 20, a man was stabbed to death at 277 W. 114th St., near Frederick Douglass Boulevard. On Aug. 8, Jamik White, 39, was shot and killed in front of 271 W. 114th St.
The block at 114th between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, where Randolph Houses is located, is often cited as a troubled street by area residents.
Police are seeking Michael James, 30, of the Bronx in the Aug. 20 stabbing death of Sackiwa Ntuli, 34, said Williams. The killing is thought to have resulted from a dispute over a woman.
The Aug. 8 shooting of White was related to a dice game, Williams added.
The New York City Housing Authority and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development are planning to renovate the historic row houses that make up the complex into the first mixture of public and affordable housing in the city.
Shootings are the area's biggest problems, said residents.
"There haven't been any [casualties] on my block but there were a lot of shots fired," said one woman.
Williams said shootings are down in the precinct this year. There have been 10 shootings this year compared to 15 this same time last year, a 33 percent decrease. There have been three shooting incidents in the last 28 days compared with two last year.
According to DNAinfo.com's new Crime & Safety Report, Harlem's three neighborhoods rank last when it comes to shootings in Manhattan. Shootings and shooting incidents increased in both Central and West Harlem in 2010, according to the report.
There were 52 shooting incidents with 61 victims in Central Harlem in 2010 compared to 46 shooting incidents and 54 victims in 2009. In West Harlem, both shooting incidents and victims more than doubled in 2010. There were 14 shootings and 18 victims in 2010 compared to seven shooting incidents and seven victims in 2009.
Williams blamed the problems on youth crews, a phenomena which began gaining traction in Upper Manhattan but is now "starting to spread out to the other boroughs," he said. The crews are less organized than more established gangs, but were responsible for 35 percent of the non-fatal shootings in Upper Manhattan, according to police.
Williams said he was happy to see an emphasis placed on dealing with the crews when Police Commissioner Ray Kelly named Lt. Kevin O'Connor, formerly head of Manhattan North’s gang intelligence unit, to be the assistant commissioner for the newly-created Juvenile Justice Division of the NYPD.
He said the division will work to keep kids that are on the edge of getting into trouble from falling in with the crews. Police are also monitoring and stepping up patrols at shooting hotspots.
Williams reminded residents that Harlem is much safer than it used to be. "This is a different place than it was 15 or 20 years ago," he said.
Laurent Delly, vice president of the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association, said Williams has a lot of work ahead.
"We'll see how he's going to do. We haven't tested him yet," said Delly.