SOUTH BRONX — Crime in the 40th Precinct rose by the sharpest amount of any precinct throughout the city for the second year in a row, according to the district's commanding officer Deputy Inspector Brian Hennessy.
The precinct, which covers South Bronx neighborhoods including Mott Haven, Port Morris and Melrose, saw increases in murders, robberies, felony assaults, burglaries and grand larcenies this year, and crime overall went up by 14.2 percent.
Although this was a lower increase than last year, when crime went up by 24.3 percent, it was still the sharpest rise in New York City, which saw overall crime and shootings fall to record lows last year.
Felony assaults were one of the largest contributors to the precinct's spike, rising from 578 in 2015 to 746 in 2016 largely due to a surge in stabbings, slashings and domestic violence, according to Hennessy.
The precinct also saw a sharp increase in murders, which rose from nine to 14, and grand larcenies, which went from 652 to 746. The only category that decreased was auto thefts, which dropped from 99 to 91, while rapes held steady at 38 in 2015 and 2016.
Hennessy said the squad had changed some of the staffers in its domestic violence program and would concentrate on responding to victims in real time going forward, making him confident that the surge in domestic assaults would not continue into the current year.
"We changed some personnel around, put some new guidelines and parameters in place to make sure that all the checks are done and that we have a real time response to domestic violence victims," he said, "and obviously outreach is number one just to make sure that everyone is safe."
Officers in the 40th Precinct will also focus more energy on patrolling Courtlandt Avenue this year, as that was a particularly dangerous area with about 10 shootings in 2016, according to Hennessy.
This focus will include hosting a "safe streets" event along the avenue on Jan. 12 for children in the neighborhood to give police officers and community members a chance to spend time together.
"It was one of the strips that was very violent for us," Hennessy said, "and we’re going to turn that into an area where the cops are out there with the children and the residents and the business owners and make an area that was violent at one time into an area that has great community involvement."
Hennessy took over at the 40th Precinct during the summer of 2016, replacing Inspector Carlos Valdez, who had been tapped to head up the squad roughly one year earlier in the wake of a scandal that saw 19 officers in the precinct face charges for underreporting crime statistics.
Gabriel DeJesus, president of the 40th Precinct Community Council, said he would appreciate an increased police presence along problematic corridors like Courtlandt Avenue, which he described as "one of the areas that’s been giving us a lot of headaches."
However, he maintained that he still felt safe in the precinct and had not noticed a marked increase in crime walking through the community on a day to day basis.
"Me, I’m always in the neighborhood, so I haven’t had that problem," he said. "I grew up there. I haven’t had a problem yet."