Property crime is going up in lower Manhattan.
Over the last several weeks, reports of grand larceny in the area monitored by the New York Police Department’s First Precinct, which covers most of downtown, have been steadily increasing. According to NYPD crime statistics, grand larceny, which is defined as theft of personal property worth more than $1,000, is up 41.4 percent, compared to the same period of 2015. Last year, as of late March, there had been 174 total reports of grand larceny in the precinct. As of March 20 of this year, there were 246.
At the precinct’s monthly community council meeting at the end of March, Brian Nelsen of the Crime Prevention Unit acknowledged the increase and assured attendees that the precinct was addressing the problem. “Grand larceny has always been a problem,” Nelsen said. “In years where we’ve been down in crime for the whole year we’ve been up in grand larcenies. It’s a high tourist area.”
During the week of March 7 through March 13, there were 27 grand larcenies -- 17 more than the same week of 2015 -- though the week of March 20 through 27 showed a decrease, with 16 incidents as compared to 23 incidents during the same week of last year. Though Nelsen said he does not suspect that there is one group of thieves in particular who are responsible, he noted that they will often work in pairs or small groups -- one person to keep a lookout and one to snag items from a store or swipe a laptop from Starbucks. “We have numerous teams; every time a pattern pops up we shut it down … and then a new one pops up,” he said, mentioning the grand larceny task force and detective bureau that work on such cases. “It beats going to jail for drugs.”
Another recent trend has been financial fraud and identity theft, both of which are usually categorized as grand larcenies because of the value of a stolen credit card. He suggested that some of the members of the newest police academy class, which graduated last week, will be added to the grand larceny team.
The vast majority of recent grand larceny incidents, however, have been of items left unattended. “You’ve got to be aware of your surroundings and your property,” Nelsen said, expressing surprise that people continue to leave their belongings, even just to go to the bathroom. “Make sure your bags are secured -- zippers, buttons -- and keep your wallet in your front pocket,” he said.