MOTT HAVEN — The new commanding officer at the 40th Precinct always thought he would end up in The Bronx.
Deputy Inspector Carlos Valdez, who took over at the precinct for Deputy Inspector Lorenzo Johnson in the wake of a scandal over rigged crime stats, had worked in The Bronx before and assumed he would continue to do so as he moved up the ranks in the NYPD.
"I started off as a young cop, as a sergeant and a lieutenant, in The Bronx," he said, "so I thought I was going to keep the trend when I made captain, but I was assigned to Brooklyn."
Valdez served as the commanding officer of Brooklyn's 61st Precinct, covering Sheepshead Bay and Gravesend.
He enjoyed his time in the borough but said he is both happy and not surprised that he has wound up back in The Bronx.
Valdez cited violence in the neighborhood as one of the main issues he would aim to tackle, along with boosting police morale, given that he is taking over after 19 officers from the 40th Precinct were disciplined for underreporting crime statistics.
"Any time a large number of officers get in trouble, there’s always a morale issue," he said.
He stressed the importance of both making sure the officers know he supports them while also making sure they know that they need to serve the South Bronx to the best of their abilities.
"Whatever happened in the past, happened in the past. We have to move forward from here," he said. "But also they have a responsibility to this community, and there are a lot of hardworking people in this community."
He plans to install a "checks and balances" system between himself and his crime analysis staff to ensure that number manipulations do not happen going forward but said the obligation to ensure accurate crime stats also falls on individual officers at the precinct.
The nearby 42nd Precinct recently got a new commanding officer as well, with Captain James Ryan taking over for Deputy Inspector Steven Ortiz.
Like Ryan, Valdez cited the higher level of violence in the South Bronx as a big difference between his current post and his old precinct in Brooklyn.
"When I left there, there were only six shootings, year to date" he said of his time in the 61st Precinct. "None of them had any commonality amongst them, unlike here, where a lot of the shootings stem from these crews and acts of violence towards each other."
As of July 26, the 40th Precinct had seen more murders, rapes, robberies, felony assaults and shootings than the 61th Precinct, while the Brooklyn precinct had seen more burglaries, grand larcenies and auto thefts.
However, Valdez emphasized that shootings had still gone down in the 40th—14 as of July 26 this year compared to 19 during the same time last year—and that most of the violence could be traced back to a small group of people.
"The acts of violence here are from a smaller group that’s not reflective of the overall working community here in the South Bronx," he said.
Valdez said he had been having a "stellar year" in the 61th and would treasure the people he met there.
"The relationships I made, I think I’ll hold onto not only for the rest of my career but for the rest of my life," he said.
He hopes to build great relationships with the community in the South Bronx as well.
"When you get someplace, and this is my third command, you try to leave it in a better situation," he said, "so I'm here with that same mentality."