By Jessica Easthope
Harold Gaffney has seen the worst of what human beings can do to each other, he was a court officer and a court clerk for 36 years, but he’s never seen the city this bad.
“There used to be a time where you had the concept of a crime-busting DA but you don’t have that anymore,” he said.
According to the NYPD, major crimes in the Financial District are up 50 percent this year compared to the rest of the city where it’s up 33 percent. The 1st Precinct, which covers the area, is reporting burglary is up 70 percent, robbery up 15 percent, felony assault up 16 percent and rape up 55 percent.
“People who commit crime don’t feel that there’s a consequence for it, if a person is arrested and back on the street in 24 hours you can have all the arrest statistics you want, the person’s back on the street,” Harold said.
Harold says even during his two-block-walk to church at our lady of victory in the heart of the financial district – he feels unsafe.
“A lot of people who commit crime feel empowered and say “hey let me do what” I want and that’s part of the problem,” he said.
Harold points to the lack of city resources designated to help homeless on the streets as one origin of the recent crime spike, and he’s not the only one.
“They turn to a life of crime, even these homeless people, violent, they’re very violent,” said Eve Smith.
Eve is a baby nurse who walks the streets of the financial district every day – and almost always with children.
“Of course I feel less safe, I was scared when I saw this homeless man he was violent, raging violent, he was attacking people passing by, people are going about their business and they fear for their lives,” she said.
People here say above ground the crime is spread out and sometimes masked by the skyscrapers and professional feel of the financial hub, but below ground – it’s harder to escape.
“I was almost at my stop here and a homeless man sat down and he was screaming and throwing donuts at people and smoking a cigarette right next to me,” said Jessica Levy who works on William Street.
She’s recently back in her native New York after living abroad, she said people warned her about the aggressive crime but she didn’t realize the magnitude of the problem until she saw it for herself.
“I don’t know if it’s only a homelessness problem,” she said. “But after leaving for three years and coming back, New York feels like a slightly different place now.”