New York Police Department data for the 77th precinct, which serves northern Crown Heights, shows a huge drop in felonies. More than a decade ago, felony complaints were above 8,000 per year in the neighborhood. But as 2017 comes to an end, there have been approximately 6,000 felonies, a decrease of some 25%.
Even though felonies are down in the 77th, people in the neighborhood have varying opinions about whether they feel safer or not. And according to our small and admittedly unscientific survey, not all of them think the drop in crime is necessarily due to police presence. Business owners and neighborhood locals shared their thoughts with The Brooklyn Ink on how the big drop in crime has changed their daily lives.
Most people seem to agree that things are much better than they used to be. Derick Edwards, 50, works in construction and has lived in Crown Heights for more than 20 years. A decade ago, he said, he wouldn’t even walk in the neighborhood at night because of the crowds of gang members on the corners selling drugs. The worst block to be on was Franklin Avenue, he said, and things would get worse as you walked down Franklin and got closer to Bedford Stuyvesant. Men would stand in groups outside of businesses and sometimes engage in turf wars. “If you were to come here and buy chicken, forget it,” he said. He added that there are fewer homeless people in the neighborhood now, too.
These days, Edwards said, the neighborhood is much better. He has four grandchildren who live in the area. He feels comfortable enough to walk alone at night rather than take a cab.
Antoinette Graham, who was coming out of church Utica avenue in Crown Heights on a recent Sunday, agreed that things were worse ten years ago. “It’s the reason I moved in the first place.” She now lives in Queens.
David Davidov, 21 , who works at Benny’s Barbershop in the neighborhood, says he does feel a bit safer in the seven-year span he’s been in Crown Heights but, he added, sometimes things happen. “My store got robbed last week. Someone broke into the store through a back window.” He said there are no suspects yet.
Noah Schwartz, who works at Bicycle Roots, has been in Crown Heights for ten years. He says he’s never had a problem in Crown Heights regarding his safety. “I think what makes the neighborhood unsafe is the gentrifiers.” He thinks people new to the neighborhood get scared for no reason and the resulting increase of police presence targets minorities. “These poor guys just get in trouble,” he said. He added that Crown Heights has one of the largest homeless shelters but that he believes none of those people are criminals—just people in a bad spot.
Yuriy Shapiro has been in Crown Heights for eight years and believes that it’s safer now. In the past, he said, he wouldn’t walk alone at midnight. People would break windows at night, he said, but not anymore. “No gate like before,” he said, referring to the gates that are erected to guard businesses. He thinks the emergence of businesses makes things safer, because they bring traffic.
Tyronne Canady, a 43-year-old barber at Plush Cuttershop, has lived in Crown Heights his whole life. He thinks it is dramatically safer. “When I was a kid, you couldn’t be on Utica avenue,” he said. “Once it got dark, that was a no-no.” When he was growing up, he said there would be 20 to 30 gang members on each corner. He doesn’t think it is safer because of police, however. “Everything is so expensive. People are being pushed out. It’s about economics. It’s not about police presence.”