HUNTS POINT — Hunts Point and Longwood, long grouped in with other high-crime South Bronx sections, have watched their shooting stats plummet this year, putting their precinct in the unlikely company of those serving Riverdale and City Island, which had the fewest shootings.
But then, last month, five separate shootings lit up the 41st Precinct, threatening to shatter its hard-won calm and sparking a forceful response from its commander.
“Obviously, going for much of the year with sporadic shootings to having five in September,” said Capt. Philip Rivera, “there’s concern.”
The 41st Precinct saw 11 shootings through Sept. 22 — less than half the number of shootings there during that period last year.
That puts the 41st behind only the 50th Precinct, which includes Riverdale and Kingsbridge and had eight shootings through Sept. 22, and the 45th, which is home to City Island and Throggs Neck and had just five shootings.
By contrast, the two South Bronx precincts adjacent to the 41st — the 40th and 42nd precincts — suffered 22 and 30 shootings, respectively, during that same period.
Rivera and residents both point to a single major factor in the precinct’s shooting lull: Operation Impact, a decade-old police program that dispatches crews of rookie cops to patrol high-crime areas.
The 41st is one of a few Bronx precincts to get its own Impact Zone, which has gone the entire year without a single shooting, Rivera said.
“Having the officers there on those corners has really helped,” said Rafael Salamanca Jr., president of the precinct’s community council, who noted the novelty of Hunts Point’s precinct rivaling Riverdale’s for fewest shootings. “You definitively have to credit the police department.”
The September shootings, however, were a reminder that the precinct still has the potential for violence.
On the afternoon of Sept. 13, one young man locked stares with a small group standing around a corner. He walked off, but then returned with a gun and opened fire — an instance of seemingly random violence.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that street beef where, ‘Oh, you looked at me the wrong way, I’m going to come back with a firearm,’” said Rivera.
On the night of Sept. 25, the bloodshed began when one young man let another into the lobby of an apartment building on Beck Street.
The suspect “walks up to somebody who’s talking to a female on the stairs and just opens fire,” Rivera said. Then, “he turns around and he shoots the person who opened the door for him.”
The two victims, aged 17 and 18, who were both shot in the lower back, were rushed to Lincoln Hospital, according to police.
The victims of the other shootings included a man walking home with his girlfriend, two men involved in a dispute outside a club and a man who was fired at five times as he walked home from a basketball game, Rivera said.
In response to the recent shooting spree, Rivera said he assigned officers to two new foot posts in hot spots on Beck and Kelly streets.
He also is increasing coordination between different units, such as narcotics and gangs, and putting some nighttime foot-patrol officers on scooters, which cover more territory and feature bright lights.
And he has ordered Impact Zone officers to pay special attention to the zone’s borders, since much crime has likely migrated away from the areas with the most cops.
Salamanca, the community council head, said he is confident the precinct will address the recent shooting spike. In fact, he said, he is more concerned that police higher-ups will see the precinct’s overall shooting decline and move the Impact Zone elsewhere.
A cop in the 42nd Precinct, with its 30 shootings this year, said he would welcome Operation Impact there. Currently, the precinct does not have its own zone, though a borough-wide team offers support the precinct, he said.
With an Impact Zone, the cop said, “you could send in a mini army to put out the fire.”