Brooklyn serial killings part of scary rise in NYCHA murder rate

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Murder is skyrocketing in New York City Housing Authority complexes, police revealed Friday, a day after accusing a Brooklyn handyman in the serial killings of three elderly NYCHA residents.

At least 71 people were murdered across NYCHA’s 302 properties in 2020, police said — an alarming 48 percent surge over 2019’s body count, when 47 killings were recorded.

The rising NYCHA homicide rate outpaces the 44 percent increase in murders citywide last year.

Jaunita Caballero, 78 — whose body was discovered Jan. 15 in her apartment in the Woodson Houses with a telephone cord wrapped around her neck — is among at least four victims killed at NYCHA properties this year, according to NYPD data through Jan. 17. During the same time last year, police logged two killings, the stats show. 

Caballero’s neighbor was arrested Thursday and charged with murdering her and two other elderly female residents, in 2015 and 2019. Police believe handyman Kevin Gavin, 66, befriended the vulnerable victims, ran errands for them, and eventually killed them in disputes over money.

In recent months, the Woodson Houses tenants association fought for more security measures, including an additional surveillance camera, but NYCHA said it was unable to make the installation due to budget cuts. 

Jacolia “Jackie” James, the 83-year-old who police say was bludgeoned to death by Gavin in 2019, is the only other murder victim killed at NYCHA’s Woodson Houses during the past five years, statistics show. Gavin killed his first known Woodson victim, Myrtle McKenny, 82, by stabbing her in the neck inside her apartment in 2015, police said.

Prior to the wave of shootings and violence that hit the city in 2020, murders at NYCHA communities were stagnant in recent years, ranging between 41 and 48 killings annually between 2016 and 2019, according to police data.

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