SOUTH BRONX — The 40th Precinct, which was embroiled in a scandal for under-reporting crime statistics over the summer, saw the biggest bump in crime in the city last year — with much of the spike concentrated in robberies, burglaries and assaults, according to Inspector Carlos Valdez, the district's commanding officer.
Overall, murders, rapes, robberies, felony assaults, burglaries, grand larcenies and auto thefts went up by 24.3 percent in the precinct, increasing from 1,701 in 2014 to 2,114 in 2015.
The sharpest increase was in burglaries, which increased from 153 to 235, a spike of 53.6 percent, according to the NYPD.
Robberies shot up from 413 to 514, while felony assaults rose from 474 to 577, police statistics show.
Valdez acknowledged that these were large increases but noted that arrests for robberies and burglaries were also up in 2015 by about 14 and 41 percent, respectively.
"That doesn’t absolve the increase altogether," he said, "but it’s at least an effort to try to quell any future robberies and burglaries."
Arrests for felony assaults in the precinct dropped slightly for the year by 4.6 percent, according to the NYPD.
Valdez also stressed that the precinct saw shooting victims and incidents drop by about 26 and 19 percent, respectively, which he attributed partially to a massive gang takedown in early December of two groups based in the Mott Haven and Patterson Houses that he hoped would help reduce violence in the community going forward.
Clusters of robberies in the precinct last year occurred by the Willis Avenue Bridge, 143rd Street and Westchester Avenue, and the command has also seen a big spike in youth on youth robberies, according to Valdez.
"We have to be able to identify who are doing the robberies, and we have to do that by working with the schools, by working with the community and working with school safety officers," he said.
The precinct is also launching a Neighborhood Community Officer program, which Valdez hopes will help bring down crime as well.
The initiative is meant to strengthen police-community relations by splitting up the precinct into four sections and designating two officers per section with heading up efforts to reach out to and better get to know the residents, their neighborhoods and their concerns.
Valdez is still relatively new to the precinct, having taken over during the summer in the wake of a scandal where 19 officers were disciplined for underreporting crimes. He maintained that his increased familiarity with the area going forward would help make it a safer place as well.
"Now that I am more familiar not only with the community but the boundaries and the areas and the geographics ... I think that can only help," he said.
Gabriel DeJesus, president of the 40th Precinct Community Council, agreed that larcenies and robberies were behind most of the area's 2015 crime spike.
"We had a lot of that throughout the summer, pretty much throughout the whole year," he said, "and I experienced it personally ... I was on 3rd Avenue, and I saw a girl get her phone snatched away."
However, he said he did not feel at risk when walking around the neighborhood, noting that things were still much calmer than they were when he was growing up.
"I don’t feel any less safe," he said. "I’m good."