Home' Greymouth Star : January 13th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, January 13, 2015 - 5
Emily Flitter and Luciana Lopez
n the footpath of a public housing
development in Brooklyn, New
York notorious for gang violence
and drug activity, the words “Fascist
pig, go home!” in black spray paint
are fading but still legible.
These are the Marcy Houses, 27 brick H-block
buildings, each six storeys high, that are home
to nearly 4300 people, many of whom are black
or Latino. The rapper Jay-Z, who grew up in the
complex, described Marcy as “a block away from
hell,” the place where “news cameras never come,” in
a song called Where I’m From.
In recent years, Marcy has had a group of very
reliable visitors: the police, who patrol on foot and
in cars as part of a controversial “broken windows”
strategy that focuses on cracking down on small
crimes to prevent bigger ones.
Until three weeks ago, they had been an ever-
present, highly visible presence in Marcy Houses.
Now, the police have all but disappeared, raising
safety concerns among some residents while
pleasing others who view the police strategy as
A reporter saw only one police car on a visit on
The shooting of two police officers in their
patrol car a block away from the development on
December 20 has widened a rift between the police
unions and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who
they accuse of making anti-police statements and
fuelling a hostile environment for police, allegations
Police department data shows the number of
arrests and court summonses has plunged across
the city since the shooting. But it is in higher crime
areas like Marcy Houses, and neighbourhoods such
as Mott Haven in the Bronx, that the lower police
profile may be of most concern.
No court summonses were issued in the 79th
police precinct, which includes Marcy Houses, in the
week following the murder of the two policemen,
compared to 401 summonses in the same period in
2013, according to police data. There were only 10
summonses issued last week, compared to 405 a year
New York Police Commissioner William Bratton
confirmed for the first time on Friday that there has
been a widespread work slowdown by police officers.
Police unions deny orchestrating any slowdown.
Marcy Houses resident Nisaa, a 22-year-old black
woman who declined to give her last name, pointed
to a nearby street corner and said that until a few
weeks ago, there was always a patrol car parked
She thought the decrease in police presence was
a good thing because so many of Marcy ’s residents
feared confrontations with the cops.
“It actually makes people feel better,” she said.
Before the December shooting, patrol cars could be
seen parked in regular spots along the perimeter of
the eight-block compound.
Police officers were often seen on the rooftops of
the buildings and on foot throughout the complex,
according to residents.
On Thursday, there were no marked police cars
parked in the spots some residents said were their
normal posts. One NYPD patrol car circled the
complex but did not stop.
“I drive my husband to work every morning at 3am
and when I would come back they would be there,”
Luz Delia, 34, said pointing to a parking spot along
the edge of the complex. She said she liked parking
her car and going back into her apartment knowing
they were there. “I used to feel more safe.”
There was no immediate comment from the
The president of the Police Benevolent Association
Patrick Lynch has said the union has not initiated
or supported a slowdown, but experts say officers do
have discretion in how they choose to enforce some
If police officers are engaged in a slowdown, it
could backfire if it continues, said Robert Snyder, an
associate professor at Rutgers University who has
written about police and community relations.
“Police officers are not going to look good if they
put on their uniform on and don’t fight crime,”
More than 18km from Marcy Houses lies Mott
Haven in the South Bronx. The shops that line the
main street of this poor neighbourhood, population
91,000, are rarely the name-brand national chains,
while music in Spanish spills out onto the streets
from small stores.
Take the No 6 train from Manhattan and into
the Bronx, and the cars slowly become less white.
The Bronx area that includes Mott Haven is almost
exclusively black or Latino, according to a Census
Just a few minutes of conversation with residents
in the neighbourhood is enough to draw out stories
of shootings, stabbings, murder, or other violent
crime, either experienced personally or witnessed.
Police stops are considered a normal part of life, just
another everyday occurrence.
Yahaira Quinones, 37, said her building was
normally patrolled by police under the Clean Halls
crime prevention programme but “I haven’t seen that
in a while.”
She has also noticed fewer police officers in her
In the past, if she needed to send her teenage
daughter to the corner store, she would wait until
she saw a cop on the street.
Now, she does not feel safe sending her daughter
out alone any more.
While crime in the Bronx has plummeted in recent
years, residents in Mott Haven remain wary. Some
of those interviewed said they simply try to socialise
elsewhere and keep themselves and their children off
Not everyone sees a change in the police presence,
and some of those that do are glad that there are
fewer officers on the streets because they perceive
police stops as demeaning.
Marissa Rivadeneira, 22, said she has definitely
noticed fewer police around Mott Haven. She is now
afraid when she walks home late at night from the
Rivadeneira used to call her mother on her way
home, but now does not want to pull out her
cellphone. When asked if her mother worries about
her, Rivadeneira said, “Yeah, she does.” — Reuters
West Coast from above
PICTURE: John Bisset
A helicopter drone view of Cobden looking towards Point Elizabeth, September 2014.
A New York Police Department patrol vehicle is seen near the Marcy Houses public housing development in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
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