NYPD Checks in on Crime, Answers Questions about ‘Sense of Disorder’ In the Community

By Alex Israel

Commanding officers from the three New York City Police Department (NYPD) precincts that encompass the Upper West Side came together to discuss crime in the community with Community Board 7 (CB7). Captain William Gallagher (Central Park Precinct), Captain Neil Zuber (20th Precinct), and Deputy Inspector Naoki Yaguchi (24th Precinct) joined April’s full board meeting over Zoom.

Each CO gave a brief rundown of the various crimes that have occurred in their respective districts over the last month, as well as updates to previous cases and investigations.

CO Gallagher briefly addressed the ongoing investigation into the attacker who followed and sucker-punched an Asian-American man in Central Park at the end of March. The suspect allegedly muttered something about the victim having “an advantage” before striking him in the face and fleeing, though Gallagher said the precinct still isn’t certain what was intended by the comment. “There’s a possibility that this was motivated by bias against somebody being Asian,” he said. “An attack against somebody because of their ethnicity is really an attack against everyone. And we need to take that extremely seriously and bring that person to justice.”

Across precincts the COs reported that crimes of larceny and robbery, both involving theft of property, are generally on the rise. Without the use of force and without breaking into a structure to do so, property theft is considered larceny (of varying degrees based on the cost of the valuables); when force is invoked or threatened the crime becomes robbery, which is considered a violent crime.

In the 20th Precinct, the most concerning of those crimes was last week’s robbery at Laina Jane, according to CO Zuber. “When I was being notified about it, my skin was crawling because I thought it was going to take a very sinister turn. Thank God it did not,” he said, following up with a simple recommendation. If you have been or think you are going to be the victim of a crime, he said, “do not hesitate” in calling 911. “This is your neighborhood, you know how it looks here,” he added. “If it feels wrong, it is wrong.”

Despite the “terrifying” and “horrible” event at the boutique, many of the robberies in the precinct are merely “shoplifting gone bad,” according to Zuber. Suspects might grab a six-pack of beer or a handful of cosmetics from a local drugstore, and threaten the security guard or store associate when caught in the act, he said. While that inherently elevates the crime to a violent one, “most of them are not violent.”

Zuber identified other recent thefts as primarily teen-on-teen. “It’s a pattern of younger perpetrators probably in their late teens who are for the most part, victimizing younger teenagers—intimidating them, taking property from them.” The pattern identified by the precinct means that now the cases are grouped.

In the Central Park Precinct, unattended grand larceny is one of the most common theft crimes, according to Gallagher. This occurs when park visitors leave their belongings out, and return to find them gone—something that will only increase as the weather warms up, he predicted. Zuber said he is seeing a similar trend in the 20th Precinct, with valuables being taken on the street, inside sidewalk dining, and inside restaurants while people are not paying attention.

In the 24th Precinct, the uptick in theft is mostly virtual, in the form of scam phone calls and emails to the community’s elderly residents. CO Yaguchi’s advice? “If anybody calls you for any offers over the phone, hang up.”

When pressed by City Council District 6 Candidate Maria Danzilo on what the community can do to support local businesses being impacted by larceny and robberies, Yaguchi said that he is aware of community criticisms and added that his precinct is working to increase the local police presence in more “intimate” ways. “We definitely direct our resources towards that—we try as much as possible, try to put foot patrol out there,” he said. “If you can tell us certain areas that you would like us to focus on, we can definitely do that. And we will.”

Another community member asked what NYPD is doing to combat the “general sense of disorder that is sweeping our community,” referencing the groups of bikers and ATVs who drive up and down Broadway “at all hours” seemingly without apprehension as an example.

Zuber generally agreed with the sentiment, alluding to recent city and state policies that have led to the release of nonviolent prisoners. “Yes, there is a feeling that people are not being punished,” he conceded. “There is a factor here where people who are committing crimes are being released, then they’re committing more crimes, which means they are victimizing more people instead of being held accountable for it.”

“From our point of view, we are going to continue to investigate. We are going to continue to make the apprehensions as long as we can,” Zuber said. “We wish that the other parts of the system were working in conjunction with us.”

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    1. Frank Grimes says:

      I’m not keen on the normalization of any form of crime. It is an awful precedent….you will be surprised how todays “it just your typical shoplifting” turns into tomorrow’s “just your typical robbery”. I do not envy these officers for trying to enforce laws in a city where their higher ups are doing everything in their power to strip them of their ability to do so. It doesnt take much reading between the lines to see their frustration. For any officer reading this, I thank you for your efforts, and most people I know on the UWS do as well.

    2. UWS hopeful says:

      Thank you officers for helping our community. It is frustrating to see the impact of crime and the degradation of the quality of life in our community.

      The book “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell really explains this, and how little things matter as they can become bigger things and in general they contribute to a sense of decay that one feels in the society such as when we ignore subway fare dodging, graffiti, shoplifting, defecating, verbal harassment and panhandling.

      We are now facing this in NYC again and on the UWS. We have seen that stores and drugstores are locking items up for example. Usually if small items are locked up in a neighborhood, it is an indication or the notion that there are a lot of shop lifting incidents and that means that people are also subject to theft, robberies and more serious crime. It is when a person committing the crime or larceny or whatever, is not held accountable for their actions, therefore inviting them back to do the same or more, and signals to others that they can also do the same.

    3. Leon says:

      Thank you for this helpful summary. The final paragraphs are key. If someone steals a six-pack once, they should not get a life sentence. But there should be a record kept. The third time they do the same thing, they should be kept in jail. The fifth time they do this, their jail sentence should be a lot longer.

      It isn’t that hard. Having legitimate punishments for repeat offenders would make the city a better place, and I don’t think it is “over policing.” It sounds like the police are doing their best and they agree.

      Are any of the DA and/or mayoral candidates listening?

    4. Josh says:

      Tough to trust the NYPD when they are one of the biggest sources of the sense of disorder in the community. They take over block after block of our streets to park their private vehicles. They alter their license plates so they can skip the tolls on our bridges and speed through the cameras set up to protect school zones. They set up barriers that don’t get taken down for years to make their lives more convenient but make our neighborhood look like trash. I wish more of these cops actually lived here instead of Staten Island so maybe they would take a little pride in our community.

      • Lynne says:

        A perfect summary of the real problem with police in our community.

      • K. says:

        And they consistently break driving laws, such as stopping at red lights! Oh, yes, sometimes they blow their sirens when they run the lights. Gives the impression of an emergency, I suppose.

      • Mike M says:

        Yeah, the license plate thing bugs me too. Someone mentioned that in a WSR comment a couple of weeks ago, so I walked up 82 st near the 20th Precinct and found a couple of cars with the first and last character of NY license plates defaced; they were parked in “Law Enforcement” zone. Photos of these available if anyone (CO Zuber?) is interested.

    5. Jake van Hoensbroek says:

      Notice: no response to the ATV issue. It is the principle here that concerns me. These bikers know they can flaunt the law without consequence. It is a thumb in our eyes. The police are afraid to stop them. What they could do is pick them off one at a time. Surround one, confiscate the illegal vehicle and charge the rider. Soon enough it will get around.

      • Josh says:

        Same story for every driver who rolls through a stop sign, double parks, honks their horn in a non-emergency situation, or speeds.

      • K. says:

        If the police would *occasionally* enforce the rules, the word would get out that you can’t do that in New York. For example, pick a day to ticket all all bicycle violations, or littering, or spitting, or horn-honking Get them out of their cars once a week to go after quality of life offenses.

      • chuck d says:

        I’d say roughly 20-95% of the bikers ATV riders are cops. No joke.

      • Awilda says:

        Same for the guy in the Mercedes with the “Lawyer95” number plate. Most reckless driver ever, parks illegally, reported countless times. Everyone knows him, nobody does anything about it. Wonder ho he’s connected.

      • Georaven2000 says:

        I just want our local police to do something, anything, about the nightly parades of motorcycles, ATVs, dirt bikes, etc. speeding up and down Broadway. Now that the weather is improving the streets will be as wild as they were last summer. This past Sunday night (April 4th) there were four of these parades between 9 PM and 10 PM. They speed, rev their engines, run red lights, run up on the sidewalks threatening pedestrians, and disrupt the sleep of people in the apartment buildings all along the avenue. Will no one save us?

      • BMAC says:

        The ATV situation has gone from a once-a-weekend nuisance to a nightly event on Broadway. Cops do nothing, just as they do nothing about speeders and illegally large trucks.

    6. JL says:

      Now that Spring is here and more people are getting vaccines. I hope the NYPD are getting vaccinated also. It would be great to see police foot patrols and/or bicycle patrols (for riding, not as a weapon). THAT would bring a sense of safety back to the community. It wasn’t long ago when cops on the beat would eat at local diners and low cost restaurants. I worked in one briefly when I was in school where the owner would often forgive the bill when it was a reasonable 2 person working lunch. No one ever abused that privilege as I don’t remember many uniformed regulars. Maybe they’re not allowed to do that anymore.

      In any case, the police presence is not really felt. Squad cars parked empty or with officers on tablets or eating doesn’t increase community safety so much.

      Walking and biking is great exercise.

    7. Mark Moore says:

      Don’t vote for any Manhattan DA candidate or mayoral candidate who campaigns on not prosecuting crimes. Prosecutors have discretion, that’s fine, but declaring before you’re even elected that you won’t prosecute entire classes of crimes isn’t discretion.

      • Juan says:

        I completely agree with you, but that seems to be the stance of all of the candidates, even those who are being characterized as moderates. Which candidate do you find to be the least “anti-police” and “anti-prosecuting crime?” Serial offenders should be fully prosecuted.

        • Mark Moore says:

          I’m not endorsing anyone but right now Liz Crotty seems to fit that description best for Manhattan DA.

    8. Will says:

      A way to regain trust is to hear the officers of our local precincts give their stances on Daniel Pantaleo and Derek Chauvin. Do you stand with the actions of these two men? Do you believe using force to enforce quality of life crimes is really the way?

      • Peter says:

        You really need this? Do you truly expect anyone NOT to reject what those two did?

        By the same token, do you really need it spelled out that things are not always black-and-white? Appropriate use of force in certain situations is not the same as murdering someone unarmed/handcuffed while surrounded by multiple armed officers. You can’t paint every appropriate/necessary use of force as “standing with” those murderous cowboys.

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          the PBA has not “rejected” what Pantaleo did. Just the opposite. And let’s recall them turning their backs on De Blasio for making a very innocuous, and truthful, statement that he had to have a conversation with his Black son about how carefully to act around police. And from then on the myth was spread that De Blasio did something that “alienated” the NYPD.

        • Mark says:

          Eric Garner died because of quality of life enforcement. So you really have to think, as a citizen, that every time you complain about that radio, or that tag on a mailbox, that what you want enforced might possibly lead to the death of a nonviolent person due to unnecessary interactions with the police. Find solutions that don’t involve calling the 20th or 24th.

          • Leon says:

            I obviously agree that what happened to George Floyd and Eric Garner is horrible and those police officers should be punished to the full extent of the law. But most police officers are good people doing their best. They should not all be treated as our adversaries.

            And perhaps if you are afraid of a stop for a quality of life crime being turned into something bigger, don’t commit the quality of life crime. Letting quality of life crimes go is not the answer. I’m sure all of our beloved local businesses would not be happy if petty thefts were ignored – this has been becoming an increasing problem and makes it harder for them to survive.

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              reply to Leon:

              Petty thefts that you have cited above are not “quality of life” crimes. they are thefts. No one is not arresting people for theft.

              But you apparently want arrests for quality of life crimes such as turnstile jumping or even panhandling, which is legal, btw . So do you also want arrests and prosecutions for minor law-flouting more often committed by the upper middle class? Parking in front of a hydrant? Making an illegal left turn? hiring an undocumented cleaning lady? what if the first time you get a parking ticket it is ok, but the 4th or 5th time, we put you in jail?

              As my mother liked to say, “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”

            • Sam Katz says:

              What happened to Eric Garner has absolutely nothing to do with what happened to George Floyd. They were two totally unrelated cases in different parts of the nation. Every single police interaction is as different as everybody else’s interactions.

          • Lisa says:

            Please don’t blame the 20th Precinct for Eric Garner’s death. They had nothing to do with it.

      • Jake van Hoensbroek says:

        Two very different cases.
        One clearly criminal in my mind and one, uncertain.
        And yes I saw the videos.

    9. Mark says:

      Broken Windows = Broken Lives. RIP Eric Garner

    10. Justin says:

      I applaud Maria’s involvement in these incredibly important conversations. It will be breath of fresh air to have a city council rep who is actually on the side of their constituents!

    11. Jim Demetrios says:

      You voted for the guy. So you only have yourselves to blame. What is happening should not surprise anyone. With the new Mayoral race now occurring, perhaps we can vote in someone that is a bit tougher on crime.

    12. Vince says:

      “We wish that the other parts of the system were working in conjunction with us.” and what exactly do you think this statement made by Zuber was alluding to? One only needs to look at current policies enforced by our current leaders…and how many of us just simply acquiesce to them because we belong to a particular political platform. Too bad these “twilight zone” policies tie up the hands of those that want to protect us.

    13. Alan Flacks says:

      I am aware of the criticisms of the N.Y.P.D.; however, I’d like to put my two cents (plain!) in. Good cop or bad cop, I feel that many good police officers are disheartened at the recent events and at how the public view them.