With crime on the rise recently in Inwood, the community could soon have a new police team to patrol the neighborhood. The 34th Precinct Community Council jumped the first hurdle toward sending more Impact Response Team (IRT) officers, police officers that respond to areas of high crime, to the northern section of the 34th Precinct.
The council unanimously passed a resolution on Wednesday to request deployment of IRT officers to Inwood after police statistics showed that sending 60 additional IRT officers to a particular area of Washington Heights beginning in October decreased crime there.
“We need cops where there are serious crimes,” said George Espinal, president of the 34th Precinct Community Council, after the council’s general meeting Wednesday. “We see them in the Heights, but we don’t see them in Inwood.”
The additional 60 IRT officers patrolled Washington Heights between West 181st Street and West 190th Street, from Broadway to Amsterdam, but with no additional patrols sent to Inwood. The text of the resolution states that areas of Inwood between Dyckman Street and 10th Avenue, and from Payson Avenue to West 218th Street, were left “unguarded” with “a feeling of unsafe.”
Even though “there’s shootings, stabbings, there’s assaults,” the area “north of Dyckman didn’t get attention from the IRT,” Espinal said. The resolution seeks to change that. It would maintain “the current increased manpower and enforcement efforts” in Washington Heights through February 2011 and also deploy some of those 60 IRT officers to “sections in Inwood, North of Dyckman Street, in areas where recent car break-ins, muggings and other serious crime have taken place in the past 60 days.”
“We’re hoping that this will push for more officers” in addition to the current 60 members of the Impact Response Team that will now be shared between Washington Heights and Inwood. “This area is forgotten,” said Espinal, emphasizing that budget woes and the precinct’s reductions in manpower were to blame, not the current law enforcement efforts.
Crime in the 34th Precinct increased almost 25 percent in the 28 days before Oct. 17, with robbery and car theft increasing by 300 percent and felony assault up by 900 percent in one week. There was no comparable spike last year. Now, according to the most recent police statistics for the first week in December, crime in the precinct has decreased overall by 30 percent.
The nonbinding resolution will be reviewed by Precinct Capt. Jose Navarro and then voted on in the precinct’s executive board meeting in January. Espinal said he is “very optimistic” about the resolution.
If passed, it would bring relief to community members like Nadia Pryadko, who was mugged while walking with her 19-month-old son near Inwood’s Indian Road Playground one November evening. Two teenage boys threatened her with a concealed object, ordering her to “Give me all you got and don’t scream!” Pryadko, who no longer enters the park alone after dark, said that the incident made her realize “that the park might be a nice feature of the neighborhood but it attracts crime.”
Another Inwood resident, Joseph Haas, said, “I have seen one or two plainclothes officers, squad cars, but it’s not going to stop crime. We need beat cops.”
Espinal said that beat cops “were taken away by the police powers downtown. Everybody talks about beat cops but we don’t have them anymore.”
Espinal said the resolution was a response to input from residents, including up to 50 weekly e-mails sent via the council’s website.
Although the 34th Precinct has a population of 120,000 residents and more than 500 acres of parkland, it “has only four sectors each with one radio motor patrol (RMP) car for the entire precinct,” according to the resolution.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Capt. Navarro said, “This is a tough community and you keep me on my toes for sure.”
Northattan reporter Ingrid Rojas contributed to this story.