safest for all crime
40th precinct / population 91,497
For many terrible years, Mott Haven was an emblem of urban collapse in the South Bronx. Then, in the 1990s, the police reclaimed the streets, housing developers showed up, and the crime rate began to plummet. The results are astonishing. Total crime dropped 72 percent from 1993 to 2010 in the 40th Precinct, which covers Mott Haven. Murders and car thefts fell by 80 percent, or just over. Shootings were down by 73 percent and burglaries by 85 percent. The list goes on, with one dramatic reduction after another. The only category that didn't register a decline of at least 60 percent during that period was grand larceny, down just 44 percent.
As the quality of life has picked up, real estate agents have tried to re-brand the neighborhood as a destination for people priced out of Manhattan and other boroughs. They've even tried to give it a new name, SoBro, which may or may not stick, as the turnaround remains a work in progress. Still, Mott Haven ranks just 59th out of 69 neighborhoods in DNAinfo.com's Crime & Safety Report and is one of the least safe neighborhoods in the Bronx, second only to Hunts Point.
Crime has crawled upward in Mott Haven lately, mirroring trends in other parts of the city. Murders remained steady, at 14 in 2009 and 2010, but grand larceny jumped 17 percent in 2010, from 369 to 430. Robberies were up 9 percent, from 408 to 444, but that figure represents a 19 percent decline when compared to 2008. Shootings and felonly assaults rose slightly.
These declines were offset by big drops in property crimes, with burglaries down in 2010 by 21 percent, from 252 to 200, and car thefts by 19 percent, from 156 to 126. Rapes dipped from 24 to 23, and misdemeanor sex crimes dropped by 14 percent, from 59 to 51. Overall, the crime rate increased by less than 2 percent last year.
A return to the bad old days seems very unlikely, however. The neighborhood caricatured in Tom Wolfe's novel "Bonfire of the Vanities" is today regarded as a symbol of New York's renaissance.
Increase in grand larceny, 2009 to 2010
Decline in murder rate, 1993 to 2010
Photo: WGE Law
On Valentine's Day in 1993, six people, three of them teenagers, were lined up face-down on the floor of an apartment in Mott Haven and shot in the head. The execution-style slayings highlighted the neighborhood's reputation for violence and were later described by a judge in the Bronx as "one of the low points in this county's history." Five men, led by Anthony Casellas, were convicted of carrying out the murders in retaliation for the beating of Casellas' wife, Lourdes. Their target was 17-year-old Edwin Santiago; the five others were innocent victims. Ten days after the massacre, a friend of one of the victims shot and killed Lourdes Casellas at the entrance of the Bronx County Building, in a final act of revenge.
In 2002, the landlords were found partially liable for the 1993 murders. A Bronx Supreme Court jury agreed that the five murders might not have happened if the landlords had provided better security at the Mott Haven apartment building. The landlords, Dearborne Management and Prospect Union Associates, were ordered to pay more than $6 million to the victims' families.
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