Deputy Inspector Georgios Mastrokostas of the 61st Precinct came before Community Board 15 last week to account for the nearly 50 percent jump in major crime in the community.
This year has so far seen a 47.7 uptick in the seven major CompStat crime categories. Leading the way is property crimes, including a 94.1 percent jump in robberies from last year, as well as a 77.5 percent increase in grand larceny, a 28.3 percent increase in burglaries, and a 25 percent increase in grand larceny auto.
Though felonious assaults and murders are down, and rape has only gone from five to six from last year, the Board expressed concern about the increases at its April meeting, and requested Mastrokostas’ presence to explain the rise in crime.
According to Mastrokostas, a number of factors are fueling the increase including a tough economy, an emerging drug problem and even good weather. The precinct commander noted that crime falls in cold weather, but this year’s mild winter had crooks working overtime.
Drugs and the economy continue to be ongoing factors, however. Mastrokostas noted that prescription drugs – particularly for opiates like OxyContin and Percoset – has been on the rise since 2009, and the expensive habit spurs users to look for easy money. Pills can cost as much as $30, he noted, and there have been 417 narcotics arrests within the command so far this year.
“Some of these individuals need up to 10 [pills] a day,” Mastrokostas said. “So you’re talking about a habit where they need $200 a day to support this habit.”
The public shouldn’t be so quick to overlook the precinct’s successes, according to Mastrokostas. Crime has been on a downward trend since 2008, when Mastrokostas took the helm of the precinct. In 2009 and 2010, this district led the city’s 76 commands in crime reduction (excluding the Central Park command). The first half of 2011 was on schedule to match 2010, but the second half of the year saw crime begin to rise.
That said, this year’s numbers puts the local precinct in fine company – of the city’s 76 precincts, 52 saw increases in crime – though the 61st Precinct leads in crime increases citywide.
Still, they’ve been locking up the perps, Mastrokostas said, noting that the precinct averages 66 arrests a week and has taken in more than 1,600 so far this year.
“The 61st Precinct is a large command. Five-and-a-half square miles,” he noted. “We do our best to police it and keep it safe.”
To that end, the city is giving the precinct a “critical response” in areas like the Sheepshead-Nostrand Houses, following a spate of violent crimes in the area.
“The borough tries to help out. Right now they’re sending into the [61st Precinct] 16 police officers per day,” he noted. “They get deployed in an area that’s constantly monitored and shifted around … [We have] 15 police cars and 30 officers deployed in and around [the Sheepshead-Nostrand Houses].”
But that kind of increase in manpower won’t last, he added.
“The city’s down cops all around, and there’s still a counter-terrorism mission out there,” Mastrokostas said. “The more cops, the better off we are. But the reality is that there’s less cops.”