With complaints about the deterioration of NYC’s quality of life, the NYPD desperately needs a return to Community Policing. Should that return occur it will be most welcomed in the neighborhoods of the 104th Precinct– Middle Village, Maspeth, Ridgewood & Glendale.
As many understand, the unique topography of the neighborhoods comprising the 104th Precinct presents numerous and daunting challenges to officers patrolling the 7.4 square mile area. With cemeteries, highways, railroads and parks slicing through its boundaries, emergency vehicles must run a gauntlet of obstacles to respond to a crisis. Combine these obstacles with narrow and congested access routes and it’s no wonder the precinct has historically been one of the slowest in the city to respond to emergencies.
Making matters much worse is the imbalance of crime within the precinct.
Historically the vast majority of serious crime is located in and around the Ridgewood-Bushwick border. As a result, when there is an emergency in Maspeth or Middle Village, chances are the responding patrol car has to travel from the far reaches of the precinct and maneuver through limited and congested main arteries.
There have been many suggestions to reduce the emergency response times. One of the most popular solutions is constructing a satellite precinct in the northern part of the district. It seems like a good idea. In reality, however, a satellite precinct will do little to solve the response time problem since satellite officers will still respond to emergencies near the Brooklyn border. Back to square one.
The real solution is realignment of the precinct or creation of a new precinct for Middle Village and Maspeth. But that seems next to impossible and certainly will not happen in the near future. The next alternative is more cops for the precinct. That too has been nearly impossible to achieve under this administration.
In lieu of more cops and realignment, community policing is the answer.
There is no single definition of community policing. However, the most widely accepted one identifies three critical elements: creation of and reliance on effective partnerships with the community as well as with other public and private sector resources; application of problem-solving strategies or tactics; and need for comprehensive transformation of police organization culture and structure to support this philosophical shift.
Community policing is not a program, but a philosophy, not a strategy but an approach to the entire business of public safety. In general, community policing relies on organizational decentralization and a reorientation of patrol in order to facilitate two-way communication between police and the public. It assumes a commitment to broadly focused, problem-oriented policing and requires that police are responsive to citizen demands when they decide what local problems are and set their priorities. Community policing brings to the table a structure and an outlook that value the solving of problems, encourage community engagement by officers, and focuses energy on preventive measures as well as reaction.
In the early 1990’s the NYPD instituted a form of community policing but it lacked a true commitment from the police brass. Community police officers were the first to be given duty outside the precinct and were rarely in their communities. Commissioner Howard Safir made further cutbacks in the program and presently there are only a few community police officers in the precincts. Of the ones who the NYPD labels as “community police officers,” very few really know their communities.
A return to true community policing is vital. Especially in the 104th Precinct. CPU officers can ticket illegally parked vehicles that clog our main thoroughfares and slow emergency response. CPU officers have a presence that deters crime and violations of quality of life so prevalent in Middle Village and Maspeth. And if they are given scooters, CPU officers can answer emergency calls when they are nearby and enforce traffic laws.
For years every civic leader in the 104th precinct has been speaking out for a real community patrol unit for the 104th. Double beats in busy and problematic areas is an essential part of a successful Community Patrol Unit.
We hope that the Mayor and Police Commissioner will understand how important Community Policing is to our neighborhood and bring back the “Cop on the Beat.” After all crime was never a big issue in Middle Village since we had very little. Maintaining our quality of life is.