Cops Zero In on Franklin Avenue Crime as New Residents Flood Neighborhood

By Sonja Sharp on January 31, 2013 12:44pm 

CROWN HEIGHTS — Crown Heights' Franklin Avenue has been at the top of hip Brooklyn's up-and-coming list for months. But just south of Eastern Parkway, a scant block from the neighborhood's blossoming business district, residents describe an area plagued by drug deals and ringing gunshots.

"The kid who was shooting out here, he shot at the kid and he missed and then he came back ... I was standing there when this boy shot at him. I was in my pajamas," said longtime resident Mildred Ross, who said the early-morning shootout was one of nearly a dozen that erupted on her block this fall.

"I don’t want to be afraid to come out of my door and get caught in the crossfire."

Despite a heavy police presence, the block of Union Street between Franklin and Bedford avenues remains among the most crime-ridden in the area, neighbors say.

"I’ve noticed that there are a lot of shady guys around all the time," said Leah Mollin-Kling, 29, who recently moved to Union Street from the Jewish Hospital at Prospect Place and Franklin Avenue.

"Two buildings down from where I live, there’s always somebody looking out in the driveway, there’s always guys milling about and talking in groups, and then every once in a while someone will get in a fight. It’s pretty obvious, but I’ve never seen anything overt."

Ross described groups of drug dealers showing up on the block "like they're coming to a job."

Now, police are coming after them.

The problem block is part of the 71st Precinct's 2-year-old "Impact Zone," which has brought a concentration of officers to the area.

Although neighbors complained about an increase in shooting incidents this past fall, the area saw 17 fewer major crimes between September of 2012 and January of 2013 than in the same period the year before. That includes nearly 60 fewer major crimes than before the Impact Zone arrived, officials said.

"It was originally put there because we saw an increase in violence, mainly shootings, along Franklin and Union and Franklin and Carroll," said Detective Vincent Martinos, community affairs officer at the 71st Precinct. "We have a lot of gang activity in a lot of those side buildings, and we started getting a lot more shootings, so that’s why we chose it for an Impact Zone."

The increase has not gone unnoticed by neighbors.

"There was a heavy police presence when I moved in, in comparison to other places I’ve lived," said Mollin-Kling's partner, Diana Pincus. "I’d see groups of six or eight cops walking around — that was kind of scary."

Unlike her new neighbors, Ross said she's mostly happy with the precinct's presence and its response to her concerns.

"It’s gotten so much better — it had been these strangers just holding down our street corners," she said. "Lately they’ve been putting the cops on the corner."

Still, Ross said that she and other longtime neighbors felt the increased attention on their block is directly related to the number of newcomers moving in.

"One of the reasons they’re in the neighborhood now is because the neighborhood is changing," Ross said. "Now, in the last year or so, they’ve been putting more cops here."

Pincus, who has lived on the block for more than a year, agreed.

"I feel like when I moved in I was the only white female in the building, and now there’s a whole bunch of people that I see around a lot," she said. "I don’t see people moving out, but I always see new white faces."

If that's what it takes to get crime down, Ross said, then so be it.

"i grew up in this neighborhood from a kid," she said. "I’ve seen the changes over the years. It’s a work in progress and we all just have to keep working on it."

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