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Crime Is Up in 7 NYCHA Developments Targeted by $210M Plan to Curb Violence

By Gustavo Solis | December 1, 2015 11:55am
 Council members Melissa Mark-Vivierito, Ritchie Torres, and Vanessa Gibson held an oversight hearing to determine the effectiveness of the city's MAP program aimed at reducing crime in 15 NYCHA developments.
Council members Melissa Mark-Vivierito, Ritchie Torres, and Vanessa Gibson held an oversight hearing to determine the effectiveness of the city's MAP program aimed at reducing crime in 15 NYCHA developments.
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DNAinfo/Gustavo Solis

EAST HARLEM — Despite a $210 million program to decrease crime, violence is up in some NYCHA developments, statistics show.

More than 19 months after the start of Mayor Bill de Blasio's Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety, or MAP, crime is up in seven of the 15 targeted developments including the Wagner Houses (16 percent increase), St. Nicholas Houses (14 percent increase), and Stapleton House (40 percent increase), according to NYPD data.

The multi-million program was unveiled in July 2014, shortly after the murder of 6-year-old Prince Joshua Avitto.

De Blasio earmarked $210 million to increase police and social services, and to install lights and cameras in the city’s most crime-ridden public housing developments.

Overall, however, crime is down 11 percent in the 15 housing complexes when averaged against the eight developments that saw a decrease in reported crimes, according to NYCHA.

“Given the scale of the investment, how can we characterize this plan as a success when only eight developments saw a decrease in crime?” asked Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres, who heads the public housing committee, during a hearing Monday.

Although only 5 percent of New Yorkers live in public housing, 20 percent of shootings in the city happen in NYCHA developments. Additionally, 14 percent of overall murders and 10 percent or rapes and assaults city-wide happen in public housing, he added.

During the hearing Torres, Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, and Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito spoke with NYPD, NYCHA, and representatives from the Mayor’s Office for Criminal Justice.

The increased percentages of crime in some developments could be inflated because of overall low numbers, said Amy Sananman, the director of the Mayor's Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety [MAP] program.

“Every shooting is tragic and we want to reduce every violent crime possible,” she said. “That said, in certain situations it’s a question of 15 versus 21 so the numbers are relatively small, in which case the percentage is high.”

The MAP program has brought more than 50 CCTVs, 1,800 security cameras, 180 temporary lights to NYCHA projects. They have also removed more than 12,000 feet of unused scaffolding sheds, she added.

Additionally they’ve extended hours to community centers and increased programming in the 15 developments, Sananman said.

Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, who represents Fort Greene, said that she has not seen some of the infrastructure changes at the Ingersoll Houses despite hearing testimony that improvements created “immediate” results.

After a triple homicide at the development in September, Cumbo wanted to see the improvements in action.

“I instantly thought with the enhanced cameras and the enhanced lighting that we would instantly be able to get a positive ID on that shooter immediately and that person would be arrested,” she said. “We are now going on after two months.”

At Ingersoll, the permanent lights won't be installed until November 2016 and the cameras until July 2016, according to representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

The MAP program should yield more results in its second year, Sananman told the elected officials.

“The point is that we are not done,” she said. “Year one was focused on investing in programs and in infrastructure that is still rolling out. Year two is an important component, which is neighborhood [engagement].”

They plan to reach out to tenant leaders and resident associations to develop plans that target specific needs at each of the 15 developments, she added.