Wednesday, January 29, 2014

At the 78th, an award serves as reminder that Ratner's malls, not AY footprint, are crime center

For those with long memories, the Cop of the Month award announced last night at the 78th Precinct Community Council meeting in Prospect Heights provoked some knowing chuckles.

For the 78th and its commander, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri, it was good news. Since the busy Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls were added to the precinct in September 2012 as part of a reconfiguration that also added the Barclays Center, major crimes at the malls were down 25% last year.

Still, said Ameri, "I have some issues, some crime, some after-school problems." So the dedicated mall unit--Officers Bash, Butler, Prince, and Sears--together managed 200 arrests, earning them the month's award.

Ameri later told me the malls--which, I'd note--are operated by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner--accounted for some 500 arrests last year, mostly minor crimes.

That was congruent with March 2009 statement by Captain Vanessa Kight, 88th Precinct Executive Officer, that "A large percentage of our crime--particularly grand larceny and petit larceny--occurs in the malls."

And the reason that provokes knowing chuckles is that it reconfirms criticisms of the Empire State Development Corporation's Blight Study, which blamed high crime in what was then Sector E of the 88th Precinct on the Atlantic Yards footprint. I first wrote in July 2006 and followed up several times.

(ESDC graphic adapted by Lumi Rolley of NoLandGrab.)
Drilling down

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.

The Blight Study tried to assess whether the malls, in the western end of Sector 88E above Atlantic Avenue and thus the footprint (outlined in gray in graphic), 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.

(Emphases added)

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.

Yet Forest City's 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."

And the authors of the state-issued Blight Study relied on mall security staff rather than police statistics.

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