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Rikers Island Inflates Crime Stats in the Bronx

By Patrick Wall | March 25, 2013 9:25am

RIKERS ISLAND — Rikers Island, with its 10 jails and 85,000 annual inmates, occupies an odd spot in the city — actually, a few odd spots.

Situated in the East River between Hunts Point and Queens, the 400-acre island is part of Bronx County. Yet, it is included in Queens City Council and community board districts, apparently because the only bridge to Rikers connects to Queens.

And while the island falls within the confines of the 114th Precinct in Queens, its crime statistics are lumped into the Bronx's 41st Precinct — an arrangement that irks both cops and residents.

“Those numbers really don’t reflect what’s occurring here in our community,” said Community Board 2 District Manager Rafael Salamanca Jr.

“When they add those numbers to our CompStat’s,” the NYPD tally of incidents in seven major crime categories, Salamanca added, “it makes it seem like crime’s going up in the community, when it’s really not.”

Deputy Inspector Philip Rivera, the commanding officer of the 41st Precinct, which covers Hunts Point and part of Longwood, told residents at a recent community meeting that Rikers had seen 12 more assaults in the previous 28-day period than it had during that same window last year.

“If you take away the assaults on Rikers Island,” Rivera noted, “we’d be down in felony assaults.”

The Bronx District Attorney’s office, which handles most Rikers cases, has also had to grapple with the jump in jailhouse crimes.

This caseload has increased “dramatically” in the past decade, rising by a third from 682 cases in 2002 to 900 cases in 2012, according to a report the office submitted to the City Council this month.

The Bronx DA has requested a nearly $800,000 boost to its annual budget to help it investigate and prosecute the growing number of Rikers crimes, which the report called “a unique drain on this office’s resources.”

“It keeps Bronx County busy,” said DA spokesman Steven Reed.

Robin Campbell, a Department of Correction spokesman, said gang violence has led to a rise in slashings in city jails (Rikers-specific figures were unavailable, he said).

While the overall number of inmates has declined, Campbell added, prisoners now have a higher rate of mental health issues, violent felony charges, past incarceration and gang affiliation.

“The department has been adding more cameras, more scanners and more staff training to keep pace with the growing security demands of a changing inmate population,” he said.

As these surging Rikers Island crime numbers are added to the tally in the South Bronx, residents worry the neighborhood’s image gets skewed.

“When a community has higher crime statistics, it not only has an impact on the perception of the community, but also on the community’s perception of itself,” said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a South Bronx native and an entrepreneur who works out of the business incubator inside the BankNote building on Garrison Avenue.

“I think it’s a very simple request that a community’s statistics reflect its reality,” Ocasio-Cortez, 23, added.

That request may be simple, but the situation, it seems, is not.

The DOC spokesman claimed Rikers falls within the 41st Precinct, while a Police Department map clearly includes it in the 114th Precinct. (The NYPD did not respond to questions, but a 114th Precinct officer confirmed that Rikers sits within that precinct’s confines.)

At the 41st Precinct, no one seems entirely sure why they catch the island's stats.

“I don’t know why," one officer said. "This has to do with mapping from ages and ages ago."

Then the cop added, with a sigh, “Obviously it doesn’t make sense — but not much nowadays makes sense.”