MIDTOWN — Midtown cops have been on a ticket-issuing blitz.
The number of criminal summonses written in the Midtown North and Midtown South precincts skyrocketed a whopping 30 percent last year, with 15,909 summonses issued in 2010, up from 12,312 in 2009, according to data from DNAinfo’s Crime & Safety Report.
The spike is being blamed by some on reaction to a failed car bombing in Times Square.
The summonses include many quality-of-life offenses, such as public intoxication and public urination, but exclude tickets written for moving and parking violations. The increase comes as overall crime in the neighboring precincts fell another seven percent in 2010, despite disturbing increases in rapes and felony assaults.
Police and local residents have several theories about why so many more tickets have been written, but one of the most compelling appears to be the May 1, 2010 attempted bombing.
Since the attempt, "there has been an extraordinarily large amount of extra police officers working in Midtown, especially the Times Square area,” said Lt. Evan Minogue, a community affairs officer at the Midtown North precinct, who said that officers have also been deployed to numerous other high-profile locations, including Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Columbus Circle and the Fox News building on Sixth Avenue.
And while those officers may be tasked primarily with looking out for suspicious packages and vehicles to stave off another attack, they're also helping crack down on other crimes.
“These extra officers who are from precincts all over the city most likely account for the extra enforcement against quality of life offenses because there are simply more boots on the street and more eyes observing these offenses,” he said.
In addition to the extra men on the street, top brass in both precincts have also made a concerted effort to increase enforcement of quality of life crimes, department sources said.
Inspector Dennis DeQuatro, the Commanding Officer of the Midtown South precinct who took over the post in January, 2010, cited the historic decrease in more serious crimes for allowing him to shift his focus to addressing the types of concerns that residents and local business most often share.
About 75 to 80 percent of complaints received by the precinct are quality of life issues, he explained.
“Like anything, it’s a balancing act," he said, but noted that when he came in, “My emphasis was on quality of life."
DeQuatro said the change in focus was also influenced by the NYPD's embrace of the "Broken Windows" theory, which aims to prevent major crime by cracking down on less serious offenses, such as vandalism and public drinking.
"It's motivating the officers to be more aggressive and go where the problems exist," he said.
Deputy Inspector Timothy Beaudette, commanding officer of the Midtown North precinct, has also taken a more proactive stance against quality of life concerns since he took over the precinct in September, 2010, although his efforts have zeroed in on bicycle and other traffic crime.
But despite the additional officers on the ground, Midtown's precincts have nonetheless both experienced a disturbing increase in certain types of crimes. Rapes spiked a whopping 146 percent, from 13 incidents in 2009 to 32 in 2010, while felony assaults jumped 14 percent, from 274 in 2009 to 313 in 2010.
Police have long argued that rape rates have been rising because more women are now willing to come forward.
But DeQuatro also noted that 85 percent of rapes within the Midtown South precinct are acquaintance rapes, in which the victim and perpetrator knew each other prior to the attack.
Larry Roberts, president of the Midtown North precinct community council and a long-time Midtown resident, said that what most concerns him about the numbers is the increase in felony assaults.
“That one’s alarming for me," said Roberts, who said that the bad economy could be to blame. He linked the assaults with a rise in robberies in Midtown North.
John Mudd, president of the Midtown South precinct community council and a resident for nearly 30 years, agreed that desperation could be fueling many of the problems that even a ramped-up police presence may be unable to dissuade.
“As with all cases, when somebody's looking to pay their rent, I’m sure they’re being more lax about their choices," he said.
DNAinfo’s Crime & Safety Report, which came out this month, uses the latest census numbers to break down crime statistics by population count. The numbers revealed that Midtown is the least safe neighborhood in the city when it comes to crime per capita.