For residents of the Upper West Side who have been feeling anxious following a series of high-profile crimes in recent weeks, the commanding officer of the 20th police precinct has a message: his officers are the case and major crimes are down.
After residents packed his precinct’s monthly public meeting last week, many citing concerns that crime is on the rise, Deputy Inspector Timothy Malin wants to squash any notion that the neighborhood is experiencing some kind of crisis.
Year to date, Malin said, major crime is down 8.1 percent in his precinct compared to 2018. “There’s no uptick in crime,” he said in an interview this week.
Additionally, Malin said his precinct was ranked 19th out of 77 precincts in the city in terms of crime numbers declining. The 24th precinct, which is also located on the Upper West Side, was right behind them with major crime down 7.92 percent compared to 2018.
Nine more robberies have taken place in 2019 than 2018 so far, but what’s important about those numbers, he said, was the rate at which the police are apprehending the alleged perpetrators and closing the cases. Currently, the precinct’s closure rate is at 71 percent.
“We're up in robberies – to be clear. I'm up in robberies, but we’re solving them,” said Malin. “We don't have that many robberies here, which lets us prioritize them. We're still one of the safest areas.”
He pointed to outsized news coverage of three specific incidents – including two violent robberies and a shooting at playground outside the Amsterdam houses – as the source of the heightened unease in the neighborhood.
“The reason that these stories – the two robberies with the 85-year-old woman being pushed down and the 57-year-old woman being pushed down – is because we recovered excellent video and we requested media attention,” said Malin. “When I was telling people the reason you're hearing about these, and the reason these are out there, the genesis of this, is actually because the NYPD is putting it out there saying, ‘These are bad crimes. We want your help. Everybody look at this.’”
Almost all of the suspects involved in these incidents were arrested, Malin said. Officers are also close two finding two people believed to be involved in one of the robberies, he added.
Staffing Issues and Decisions
The high-profile cases, and subsequent constituent anxiety, got the attention of Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, who attended the precinct’s public meeting last week. Rosenthal spoke at the meeting about needing to provide more staffing to the 20th precinct, as over the past year it’s lost more than 20 officers to attrition. She also wrote a letter to the NYPD making the request for more officers, to which she has yet to receive a response. She said the silence is not surprising in light of the unexpected resignation of Commissioner James O’Neill this week.
“Their absence has been felt by the members of this Upper West Side community, who are contending with a recent increase in violent crime in the area,” Rosenthal said in a statement Monday. “The presence of cops alone will not prevent more crime, but along with other interventions, additional officers on the ground working to build deep connections within the community will help ensure that children in our playgrounds are not caught in the crossfire again.”
Rosenthal suggested that if it was a matter of a lack of resources, City Hall should assign fewer officers to patrol inside subway stations to catch fare beaters, and more to patrol in areas with increased crime.
Malin maintains that his district is adequately staffed and that if he needed more officers, he would make the request. Additionally, he said, it wouldn’t make sense for him to make such a request when the precinct’s crime rate is down.
After giving a thorough debriefing on the crime statistics to residents last week, he wants residents to take a step back from their fears and relax.
“Two muggings plus a shooting within an eight day period is atypical — no question,” said Malin. “I would tell people if I'm really concerned and we're struggling. But, everyone, take a breath. The sky isn’t falling.”