In the shadows of the Precinct


Text and Photos by Harriet Dedman
(follow her on Instagram @harrietdedman)

The 28th Police Precinct in Harlem has some of the highest crime rates in New York City. The Precinct – a monolithic concrete block – is located on the corner of 123rd Street and Frederick Douglas Boulevard in West Harlem, just moments from schools and playgrounds.

My series of photographs starts to draw on concepts of police surveillance, documenting a community constantly living in the shadow of a growing police presence.

“Are you with the police,” I was asked on multiple occasions. How does such suspicion impact upon a community? In many ways, it makes it tighter: “We all know everybody on this street,” says Oswin Alleyne, who lives and works – as a janitor – on West 123rd.

Across the road, 2280 FDB is a luxury high rise building, where average apartment units are sold for $890,000. The building is nestled between former tenement blocks and is adjacent to Coventry Park, where old time members of the community sit with bottles of beer hidden in brown paper bags.  

Real Estate brokers remain tight-lipped on the subject of crime. Steve Kliegerman of Halstead Property Development talks of the area’s universal appeal. “People are aware of Harlem’s history and its association with crime, we continue to assure new tenants that it is a very safe place to live.”

According to the NYPD, crime rates in the 28th Police Precinct are on the rise.

Harlem is undergoing great social and economic change, with merging landscapes and the breakdown of traditional social and familial bonds.  An active police presence remains a key theme in this development.

Magnum Foundation produced an installation of Matt Black’s The Geography of Poverty on 110th Street as a part of The Value of Food: Sustaining a Green Planet, which is on view until April 3, 2016 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Inspired by the installation in the neighborhood where they go to school, Nina Berman’s students at the Columbia Journalism School looked locally at economic disparity in upper Manhattan.

Simone Salvo