Today, in East Harlem, there exists an interesting difference of opinion regarding crime in the community. While those who live in the neighborhood claim that the area feels much safer, the police claim that crime has actually risen. A local, Michel Laregui said, “East Harlem is safe and I feel safe. Crime is not more common here than in any part of the city.” Despite such a viewpoint shared by many East Harlem inhabitants, the numbers suggest otherwise; in 2010, the number of robbery, killings, rape, and use of drugs increased by nearly 40 percent from 2009 levels. The police attribute this dramatic increase in criminal activity to the sluggish economy and the overall poverty in the region.
One especially startling statistic about East Harlem crime is the sharp rise in murders. According to a recent police report, the homicide rate has jumped approximately 400 percent in the 25th precinct in 2010. Once again, officials believe that high unemployment rate (16 percent) and cutbacks in social services have led to this unfortunate spike in violence. Peggy Morales, a member of Community Board 11, said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the economy had a lot to do with it; it makes people more desperate. Things have become harder. There are no resources so we can give programs to get these kids off the streets.” Maria Cruz, the property manager of Taino Towers, however, believed that increased gang activity and lax parental control were to blame.
Overall, in New York City, crime has decreased by 1.4 percent. Unfortunately, however, crime in East Harlem has risen as a result of the recent economic downturn and high unemployment. The disparity between East Harlem and the rest of the city, in respect to crime, is a call for change. At the heart of the matter, one sees that the poor economy is aggrandizing the issue of crime in the region. Therefore, if any improvement in crime in East Harlem is to be seen, one must endeavor to ignite the economy in the area. The city must work hard to increase jobs and to attract businesses. In addition, studies show a negative correlation in the number of police officers to the crime rate; for the crime rate to truly decrease, it is imperative that East Harlem strengthen its police force and tighten its regulation of the streets. One last problem to address would be the high rate of juvenile crime in East Harlem. In order to prevent youth from being involved in drugs or gangs, the East Harlem community must push for an increase in funding in education and must invest in after-school programs to keep youth off the streets.
By Daniel Ryu, Youth Court Member