Community Searches for Source of Crime

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:10

24th Precinct commander explains homeless shelter raids; youth gangs in West 90s

Upper West Side A contingent of homeless rights activists fresh off of a rally they held against the raid of Freedom House attended the 24th Precinct Community Council meeting last week to grill Captain Marlon Larin on why he decided to arrest 22 residents of the homeless shelter during an early morning operation on May 23.

Picture the Homeless, which is based in the Bronx, asked Captain Marlon Larin if the 24th Precinct has been able to link the area's crime issues to its homeless population.

Larin said balancing the concerns of the community, and the precinct's property crime issues, is the reason he decided to raid the shelter. Working with the Dept. of Homeless Services, said Larin, his precinct was able to determine that 10 percent of residents of Freedom House had warrants out on them. His precinct, however, only arrested 22 of the over 30 people that had warrants, and they only acted on those that were related to property theft crimes.

"This precinct suffers tremendously with property crime. Freedom House in part has been a major point of contention within this community," said Larin. "This operation was not an assault on the un-domiciled. If this was a private building I would have done the same thing."

Larin said he would "not commit" to further operations like the one that was carried out at Freedom House. When pressed by Picture the Homeless, he said, "There won't be any more operations in the immediate future."

Larin was likely responding to a directive issued by NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton earlier that day, who told the Daily News the Freedom House raid was, "Well intended, but something that I'm not supportive of. So that practice in that precinct, has in fact, ended. We will try to find other ways to deal with this crime problem."

Larin said he had not spoken directly to Bratton about the issue, but was nonetheless informed of the policy. He had previously told media that the operation was in response to complaints of property theft in the area and that such raids would continue going forward. The raid on Freedom House failed to net any of those responsible for the recent rash of property thefts.

Members of Picture the Homeless clashed with residents of the Upper West Side who attended the meeting and were more interested in speaking with the captain about crime issues affecting them in the neighborhood.

According to the most recent figures, burglaries are up drastically in the precinct compared to the same time period last year. In 2013, there were 33 burglaries reported through the first week of June. This year there were 67 reported over the same period of time, a 103 percent increase.

Larin said the precinct has seen a rash of incidents ? three in May - where burglars gain access to an apartment through scaffolding connected to the building. He urged residents who have such scaffolding on their building to make sure their windows are locked and secured.

Auto-thefts are down 18 percent over the same period last year, as are felony assaults and robberies by about 30 percent each. Grand larcenies are up four percent, and rapes are up 25 percent, with five rapes reported so far this year compared to four last year.

Other notable crimes in the district include the theft of almost 50 iPads from the St. Gregory the Great School on West 90th Street at Amsterdam Avenue. Larin said the 24th Precinct has no leads on the theft. St. Gregory serves children from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Police caught a burglar that was responsible for several break-ins in area restaurants on the same block, including Pio Pio, Ayurveda Café and Buceo 95, all of which are along Amsterdam Avenue between West 94th Street and 95th Street. Larin said the perpetrator was entering the side kitchen doors of the establishments and stealing employees' personal possessions. In one case he stole a bottle of liquor. Larin said he and his officers were shocked upon apprehending the suspect - who was also charged for snatching a purse in the area - as he was just 12 years old.

The feud between rival crews at the Douglass Houses and Wise Houses continues to simmer as summer arrives. An incident on June 15 occurred between the two crews when a fight broke out at West 92nd Street and Columbus Avenue between the "Columbus Avenue Gunnerz" and "Money Comes First." A police helicopter was mobilized to the area and police were involved in breaking up the fight, but no arrests were made in the incident, said Larin.

The Gunnerz represent the Douglass Houses on Columbus Avenue and West 104th Street, while Money Comes First are based out of the Wise Houses on West 91st Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Columbus Avenue. Larin calls these groups "crews," as opposed to gangs, because they tend to be younger and more transient in their allegiances to the more serious organized gangs in the area.

Larin said his officers arrested a member of the Columbus Avenue Gunnerz in May who was in possession of five guns at the time of his arrest. He called the member, Jeremy Roman, "one of the main guys."

But one resident of the Wise Towers who came to the precinct council meeting said the problem extends beyond the two crews fighting with each other. These crews, she said, are harassing tenants coming in and out of the building.

"I'm a mom of a teenage boy, and this situation affects me badly," said the Wise resident, who noted that her son has been mistaken for a gang member and attacked while entering the building where they live.

The resident, and another from the Douglass Houses who was present, said they stopped coming to precinct meetings with the community because the 24th was previously unresponsive to their concerns, but looked forward to working with Larin, who took over in April.

"We've always had a problem with 24th Precinct working with Douglass Houses," said the Douglass Houses resident. "Douglass Houses is willing to work with y'all, but we can't trust y'all in the 24th Precinct. Y'all could've had a lot of things taken care of. We're asking you once again, work with your community leaders, work with us, there's a whole lot of things that can be settled."

Larin said he'd take any information he could get from residents of Douglass or Wise, and precinct community council president Tom Burnett encouraged the residents to keep attending meetings to forge a new relationship with the 24th Precinct.