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‘Hill’ street blues

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Clinton Hill and Fort Greene residents are grappling with a surge in robberies this year, even as overall neighborhood crime has decreased.

Robberies skyrocketed 16.5 percent in the 88th Precinct and burglaries climbed 3.5 percent, too — though steep drops in assault and grand larceny contributed to an overall 6.75-percent drop in reported crimes through June 1.

“In the last couple of months this has come up on the radar,” Ursula Hegewisch, chairwoman of the Fort Greene Association. “I’ve heard that a couple of people have been attacked in the early evening hours. Nothing physically serious, but it’s still traumatic.”

Long-term residents of the neighborhood, though concerned about any increase in crime, are not too worried about this year’s uptick in robberies and burglaries because crime has fallen drastically compared to the early 1990s.

“There was serious crime back then,” said Michael Prude, who’s lived on DeKalb Avenue for about 15 years.

He was never a crime victim until he recently caught an intruder in his home, but even that didn’t shake his confidence that crime will stay low.

“Crime went down dramatically because we got a police presence because the complexion of the neighborhood has changed,” Prude said, using the word “complexion” literally.

In nearby Clinton Hill, some residents, especially some newcomers, have become vocal about the sudden crime spree.

“It looks good statistically [overall],” said David Haberer, who’s lived in Clinton Hill for five years and is a member of the Society for Clinton Hill. But Haberer said his neighbors are concerned about an increase in crime from car break-ins to shootings, which they believe is under-reported.

“I do sense that women and young people are more vulnerable than they were five years ago,” he said.

A recent shooting, likely drug-related, near the intersection of Grand and Putnam avenues, intensified calls from the Society and Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Clinton Hill) to beef up the police presence in the area bordered by Vanderbilt, Classon, Lafayette and Atlantic avenues — a criminal hotbed, they say. They held a rally at the scene of the shooting to protest local violent crime, though police statistics, from mid-May just after James’s demonstration, indicate there have been five shootings this year compared to nine last year.

“The precinct is not the crime-riddled command it’s being portrayed as,” said Dep. Inspector Philip Sferrazza, the top cop. “We’ve done some good work.”

Sferrazza said that although there are more robberies, there have also been 77 percent more robbery arrests,which he attributed to strategic deployment of cops to hotspots.

Updated 5:06 pm, July 9, 2018
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