Murder Rising in Gentrifying South Bronx

The Manhattan skyline is prominently visible from the Melrose, Mott Haven, and Port Morris neighborhoods covered by the 40th Precinct

Developers and prospective new residents to the South Bronx beware: Murder is on the rise in the 4-0 and it doesn’t care whether you want to call the area SoBro, the Piano District, or The South Bronx.

The 40th Precinct, which covers Port Morris, Mott Haven, and most of Melrose, has the distinction of being the only precinct out of 77 in New York City where murder is increasing.

Problems in solving these murders is compounded by several issues: fewest detectives per violent crime in the city, community mistrust in the NYPD, and the oath of silence of witnesses (snitches get stitches) mentality that permeates the area.

These problems of high crime aren’t going to go away simply because more and more luxury residences and towers are being planned or already going up.

And the area is still stuck with many issues including being the poorest congressional district in the nation.

The New York Times reports:

“And across the Bronx, investigative resources are squeezed. It has the highest violent-crime rate of the city’s five boroughs but the thinnest detective staffing. Nine of the 14 lowest-staffed precinct detective squads for violent crime in the city are there. The borough’s robbery squad is smaller than Manhattan’s, even though the Bronx has had 1,300 more cases this year. And its homicide squad has one detective for every four murders, compared with one detective for roughly every two murders in Upper Manhattan and more than one detective per murder in Lower Manhattan.

In housing-project lobbies and three-generation family apartments, outside methadone clinics and art studios, people take note of the inequity. They hear police commanders explain that they lack the resources to place a floodlight on a dangerous block or to post officers at a bullet-ridden corner. They watch witnesses cower behind triple-locked doors, more fearful of a gunman’s crew than confident in the Police Department’s ability to protect them. So though people see a lot, they rarely testify.

And in the South Bronx, as in so many predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods like it in the United States, the contract between the police and the community is in tatters. Some people have stories of crime reports that were ignored, or 911 calls that went unanswered for hours. Others tell of a 911 call for help ending in the caller’s arrest, or of a minor charge leading to 12 hours in a fetid holding cell.

This is the paradox of policing in the 40th Precinct. Its neighborhoods have historically been prime targets for aggressive tactics, like stop-and-frisk, that are designed to ward off disorder. But precinct detectives there have less time than anywhere else in the city to answer for the blood spilled in violent crimes.”

Rift Between Officers and Residents as Killings Persist in South Bronx

So while developers are busy snatching up properties for millions in speculative prices, putting up market rate condos, luxury apartment buildings, or trying to rebrand the area, the fact remains that for thousands who already live here, murder isn’t going away and persistently destroys families and communities.

While developers plop down cafes, restaurants, and boutique stores, area residents continue to suffer.

Developers will be more concerned that they may not be able to rent out or sell their luxury units once prospective renters (read: gentrifiers) find out that all that glitters isn’t indeed gold.

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.