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Williamsburg NYPD Commander Takes Over 42nd Precinct

By  Eddie Small and Serena Dai | July 20, 2015 6:44pm 

 Steven Ortiz, seen here at a Bronx Community Board 3 meeting, is leaving the 42nd Precinct for a position at the Chief of Department's office.
Steven Ortiz, seen here at a Bronx Community Board 3 meeting, is leaving the 42nd Precinct for a position at the Chief of Department's office.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

MORRISANIA — The Commanding Officer of the 42nd Precinct is headed to a new position at One Police Plaza and will be replaced by the top officer for Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

Deputy Inspector Steven Ortiz, who has headed up the South Bronx squad since May 2013, is going to the Chief of Department's office, where he will oversee the community partnership program citywide and a program aimed at reducing gang violence called the Ceasefire Initiative in Brooklyn. July 21 will be his last day in the South Bronx.

Ortiz, who has been with the force for roughly 25 years, spent about four years in the Manhattan North Narcotics unit and five years as a lieutenant in the 48th Precinct before heading to the 42nd Precinct.

"It’s always hard to leave a place that you become very comfortable with," he said, "but just like anything else, you've got to explore different avenues within the department."

Since he took over the precinct about two years ago, murders have dropped by 71.4 percent, felony assaults have dropped by 7.6 percent and grand larcenies have dropped by 21.6 percent, according to NYPD stats. Shooting victims and incidents both dropped by about 20 percent as well.

However, rapes, robberies, burglaries and auto thefts all increased over that same time period. Ortiz singled out a spike in auto thefts as a particular problem that the precinct was dealing with this winter.

His tenure also included two major takedowns of the Lyman Place Bosses, a gang that police said had been linked to more than a dozen shootings over the past two years.

Ortiz referred to the Lyman bust as a highlight of his time leading the precinct.

"Any given year, you could probably say they were responsible for, let’s say, eight shootings," he said.

Ortiz will be replaced by Captain James Ryan, who currently leads the 94th Precinct in Brooklyn, which covers the borough's Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods.

The 42nd and 94th Precincts have both seen two murders so far this year but differ in several other crime categories.

The 42nd has seen more shootings, robberies and felony assaults, for instance, while the 94th has had more burglaries and grand larcenies.

Bervin Harris, whose heads up the Renaissance Youth Center in the 42nd precinct, praised Ortiz for maintaining a good relationship with the neighborhood and said he hoped his successor would do the same.

"My hope is that whoever is taking his place is community minded like he is," he said.

"It seems like we’re losing all the good guys to One Police Plaza," he added. "What’s that about?"

Ryan, who did not respond to a request for comment, proved popular in his neighborhood as well.

Joel Friedman, a community liaison in Williamsburg, commended the work that he did in the 94th Precinct.

Friedman recalled calling Ryan in the middle of the night when a community member went missing. Ryan picked up immediately, Friedman said.

"He was available day and night, any hour of the day, weekends, he was always available for the benefit of the community,” Friedman said. "He took things very, very seriously."

Captain Peter Rose, from Crown Heights' 77th Precinct, is expected to take over for Ryan, and he, too, has a good reputation for community affairs, Friedman said.

"I'm looking forward to working with him," he said.

Ortiz predicted that Ryan would thrive in the 42nd Precinct and offered him some straightforward advice for doing well in his new post.

"Just be open minded. Listen to the community," he said. "Hear the concerns, and be very receptive."