Today’s news:

Crime stats down, sez 88th pct. - ‘Crime wave’ talk in contrast to numbers

Belying a spate of negative media attention earlier this year, crime in the 88th Precinct, which includes both Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, is actually down 3.6 percent from its 2007 levels.

In April, the Daily News published an article referring to a “crime wave” that had taken hold in the area. And in June, the New York Times published an article about what it termed a spate of muggings around the Pratt Institute (200 Willoughby Avenue).

But while robberies in the precinct are slightly up – four percent from last year – violent crime is down by a substantial margin. This is largely due to a 23 percent decrease in felonious assaults, a category that includes shootings in which the victim does not die. Overall, there have been only 12 shootings this year, compared to 22 at this time last year.

Lieutenant Barry Berger, who spoke at a Precinct Community and Youth Council meeting this past Wednesday, said the precinct had focused efforts in the Ingersoll-Whitman Houses to combat shootings and felonious assaults.

In other categories, there have been two murders this year, compared to six at this point in 2007. There have 20 percent fewer auto thefts than at this time last year.

There have been seven reported rapes in the precinct this year compared to six at this time last year, although this is a notoriously unreliable statistic because of the underreported nature of the crime.

Grand larcenies, which rose in the precinct with the opening of the Atlantic Center Mall, are virtually at the same levels as last year.

Burglaries, however, remain a pesky problem in the precinct. For the year, burglaries are up 12 percent. And in the past 28-day period, they are up a staggering 112 percent from the corresponding 28-day period in 2007.

According to Berger, the precinct has aggressively been targeting car break-ins, which are classified as burglaries. In August, the precinct made a list of the 17 top perpetrators of car break-ins, and has since caught eight of them, including three in the last week, Berger said.

Responding to the negative attention the precinct received at the beginning of the year, Berger said, “It just wasn’t true. The statistics prove it.”

Councilmember Letitia James, who attended the meeting, agreed that the problem had been “over-exaggerated” earlier in the year.

But in April, she expressed skepticism about the police statistics.

“People aren’t reporting these things, so you can’t really look at the statistics,” she said. “It’s inconvenient for them [to report crimes]. People tell me they have to wait hours when they go to the precinct.”

One particular problem area, according to James, is the Grand Avenue corridor, which she said had “an underground economy over there.”

She pointed specifically to the corner Grand and Putnam avenues, which has a reputation for drug dealing. On the night of August 21, a gunman shot a livery car passenger through the car’s window on that corner. This marked the second shooting on this corner this year after a May shooting.

James said she plans to host a town hall-style meeting about crime in the precinct in October, similar to one she held earlier in the year.

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