More and more communities nationwide are left asking what can be done about escalating neighborhood crime coupled with inadequate law enforcement support. Recently, Greenwich Village in New York City was faced with this question, and groups of concerned citizens have responded by forming block associations and enlisting the services of armed security guards to improve neighborhood safety.
As first reported by The Village Sun, block associations tasked the security guards with addressing public drug use, drug trafficking, public defecation, and other issues related to the growing homeless population in the area. A member of one block association vented to The Village Sun that "In 2019 we started to see an uptick with just the E.D.P.’s (emotionally disturbed person). It was another level…the blatant drug use, the blatant drug dealing."
What's Behind the Rise in Neighborhood Crime?
When residents appealed to NYPD’s 6th Precinct, which patrols Greenwich Village, for greater police presence in the neighborhood, they were told that police resources must be allocated to other communities with higher crime rates, highlighting just how overwhelmed and underfunded metropolitan police forces have become.
It's not just the scarcity of police resources, residents also call out bail reform as a contributing factor in the deterioration of their neighborhood saying, "they don’t arrest them because nothing can be done. They all know the loopholes now." Regardless of who's to blame, what it all boils down to is a perfect storm of overextended police, poor mental healthcare, homelessness, addiction, and crime in an otherwise genteel neighborhood.
The Impact of Crime on Greenwich Village Life
Greenwich Village residents spoke of many disturbing incidents from indecent exposure to excrement in the streets and constant screaming at all hours. NYPD's 6th district has dealt with an 81% increase in total major crime in the area over the last year with rapes and felony assaults up 43% and 8% respectively, according to the New York Post.
Elderly people in the neighborhood express fear over leaving their homes to go out for groceries and young children in the neighborhood are frequently exposed to distressing scenes. Photos supplied by residents show addicts hunched over in doorways and on sidewalks with used needles in hand and homeless people urinating in public. “We see defecation, urination, masturbation. Any kind of -action, we’ve got it,” said one Greenwich resident.
How Does Hired Security Improve Neighborhood Safety?
Using a combination of foot and mobile roving patrols, NYC security guards engaged in over 200 interactions in the first two weeks of service wherein individuals were approached and ejected from the block.
While patrols took place daily, the security firm varied the guard's schedule to keep offenders guessing and residents noticed improvements relatively quickly. As one resident told the New York Post, "it was such a relief to come home and not find anyone on my stoop. I was relieved to not find the same dealers and addicts on my block."
The efforts of Greenwich Village block associations have met with approval from the 6th Precinct's commanding officer Captain Spataro as well, who told The Village Sun, "We welcome all partners willing to work with us, and are pleased about having additional responsible 'eyes on the street,' as Jane Jacobs would describe it."