Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Case closed (and Blight Study bogus): high crime in Sector 88E relates to Ratner's malls, not AY footprint

I've long argued that claims in the Empire State Development Corporation's Blight Study of high crime in the Atlantic Yards footprint were dubious, first writing in July 2006. The state's evidence was so weak that Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden, in her January 2008 dismissal of the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review, punted on even addressing the crime issue.

Last April, the Daily News, quoted an anonymous source as saying the need for a police presence at the Atlantic Terminal Mall has cut into the ranks of officers policing the rest of the 88th Precinct.

Case closed

Last night, a police official clarified the issue and closed the case: yes, Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls are prime crime locations in the precinct.

"A large percentage of our crime--particularly grand larceny and petit larceny--occurs in the malls," declared Captain Vanessa Kight, 88th Precinct Executive Officer, at the monthly meeting of the 88th Precinct Community and Youth Council, held at the Cadman Memorial Church in Clinton Hill.

Even though four officers are assigned to the malls at various times, there have been 195 crimes so far this calendar year at the malls, notably the snatching of unattended purses. (Here's a list of recent purse-snatchings at Target, in The Local, the New York Times's new blog, and a follow-up today.)

ESDC: not the malls

Remember, the AY footprint contains sectors from three separate precincts, and the only sector where a rise in crime had been seen--the source of the Blight Study's sweeping conclusions--was Sector 88E, shown at right. The footprint blocks are those below Atlantic Avenue.

(ESDC graphic adapted by Lumi Rolley of NoLandGrab; click to enlarge.)

The report tried to assess whether the malls, in the western end of Sector 88E above Atlantic Avenue and thus the footprint, contribute to crime:
The Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal shopping centers are located immediately north of the project site, also within the boundaries of Sector 88E. In an effort to determine whether a large proportion of crimes reported for Sector 88E might have occurred on the Atlantic Center/Atlantic Terminal premises rather than on the project site, crime data were obtained from the security staff at the shopping centers.
Based on this data, which reflects incidents occurring within the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal shopping and parking areas as well as on the surrounding sidewalks, it is unlikely that a large proportion of crimes in sector 88E occurred on the Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal premises. For example, while there were 39 robberies in sector 88E in 2005, the shopping center security records indicate that no robberies occurred that year at Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal. Similarly, while there were 115 grand larceny crimes reported for sector 88E in 2005, the shopping center security force recorded only one incident of larceny that same year. Although crimes catalogued by the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal security staff are not necessarily the same as those catalogued by the NYPD, the relatively low number of crimes reported at the shopping centers indicates that the high crime rate in sector 88E is more likely a result of crimes occurring on the project site than in Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal.

(Emphasis added)

What a crock.

Remember, Jim Stuckey, then president of the Atlantic Yards Development Group, straightfacedly told WNYC talk show host Brian Lehrer in July 2006, ""The crime in these [AY footprint] areas is substantially higher than areas around it."

What a crock.

Which source to trust?

As I wrote last April, could it be that mall security staff, whose records indicate that only one incident of grand larceny--theft of property of more than $250 in value--occurred during a year, according to the Blight Study, might be fudging the books?

More to the point, why did the authors of the Blight Study rely on mall security staff rather than police statistics?

And why didn't critics of the Blight Study, including myself, not spend more time at 88th Precinct Community Council meetings to hear the cops tell the straight story?

This statement in the Blight Study sure seems misleading:
Sectors are the smallest geographic area for which the NYPD publishes crime data. Therefore, it is not possible to determine the number of crimes that have occurred on the project site itself. However, crime rates in the sectors that overlap the project site (referred to here as the study area) can be compared to precinct averages to determine whether there are any substantial differences between crime rates on and around the project site and crime rates in the larger precincts.
(Emphasis added)

The Police Department may not publish crime data on geographic areas smaller than sectors, but, as I learned last night, it sure keeps crime data on hot spots within the sectors, like the malls.

Two rivals at the Community Council

I didn't go to the meeting last night to check out crime statistics. I wanted to see the Community Council in action, given that its president is Delia Hunley-Adossa, the newly declared challenger to Letitia James for the 35th District Council seat.

Hunley-Adossa ran the meeting smoothly enough, even as new Fort Greene blogger Andy Newman of the New York Times provided more saturation coverage (and occasionally distracting picture-taking) than the Community Council has likely ever experienced.

(Maybe unpaid citizen journalists are supposed to cover such meetings thoroughly, but in this case it took a professional from the Times to ask the cops questions residents posed on The Local.)

And when the incumbent James joined Hunley-Adossa to flank the two "Cop of the Month" winners as they posed for photographs, the two rivals were carefully cordial. 

James is no shrinking violet, and she made her own announcements at the meeting with perhaps extra brio, as if reminding the audience--which was just as receptive to her as they were to the meeting chair--who actually has been elected.

1 comment:

  1. More developer blight:
    This new info makes you wonder how crime stats could possibly go down if Bruce Ratner actually ends up building the arena and the densest residential community in the nation.

    ReplyDelete