Bloomberg Confers Award On 114th Pct. Cop
Bloomberg Confers Award On 114th Pct. Cop
by richard gentilviso
Police Officer James Seabrook knew he’d receive the February Cop of the Month award at the March meeting of the 114th Precinct Community Council at Riccardo’s. But he didn’t know it would be given to him by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown were all on hand for the monthly presentation. In an address to the council, Bloomberg praised crime reduction in the 114th, which is down 14 percent so far this year.
"With the economy going down, common sense says crime should be going up," Bloomberg said. Citing crime statistics for 216 cities with populations of 100,000 or more people, Bloomberg quizzed the audience as to where they thought New York City would rank on that list. "197th!" he said in answer, and adding only 20 U.S. cities of 100,000 or more in population are safer than New York City. "That’s really quite amazing," the mayor said, given New York’s size and diversity.
Bloomberg also noted the increased burdens of police counterterrorist efforts and a reduced force. "Yet, with all of that, crime continues to come down. There is no police department that deserves our admiration as does the NYPD," he said. Citywide, crime is down about 10 percent this year to date.
"We’re honored they share our belief that public safety is our number one concern and our number one priority," City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. said as he introduced Bloomberg. Then, tongue in cheek, Vallone also promised not to mention proposed cuts in the police department budget.
The Independent Budget Office (IBO) has said the mayor’s budget this year calls for a total force of 34,774 uniformed officers next year. This is a reduction of about 3,000 officers from this year. In addition, about 4,000 officers are expected to retire during the coming year.
Vallone Jr. praised the mayor and Kelly, saying, "Under their watch, not only has crime continued to plummet but New York City has remained the safest city in the world since 9/11." Earlier, Vallone Jr. chairperson of the council public safety committee said, "Our generals are great but we need foot soldiers to win the war."
Operation Atlas, NYPD’s security plan during war with Iraq, is in place at a reported cost of $5 million per week. According to a report in Newsday of March 26, some arrests have been affected. For example, narcotics arrests were down 34 percent last week, compared to last year.
Bloomberg blamed the city’s fiscal woes on diminished revenues coming into the city’s tax coffers, especially from Wall Street, which accounts for up to one-third of all tax revenues in good times. Moreover, tourist revenues are down as well. "People aren’t traveling the way they used to," the mayor said.
Nonetheless, he is optimistic about long-term prospects for the city and repeated his often-stated prescription for the short term. "We have to find ways to do more with less," Bloomberg said, pointing to the police as an example.
"Exhibit A is the NYPD," he said, noting fewer resources and extra duties still resulted in crime dropping. "You can’t argue with results. Ray Kelly is a tough guy to satisfy. He’s going to keep crime coming down," Bloomberg acknowledged the cops should be paid more. "I’d love to pay you guys more, but we can’t do that right now," he said.
Kelly, taking questions, acknowledged the Police Department is down about 4,000 police officers from three years ago. He also confirmed that Frank Libutti, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general who has been deputy commissioner of the police department’s Counter Terrorism Bureau since it inception 14 months ago, has been nominated by President George W. Bush to head the newly formed Department of Homeland Security intelligence operations.
Along with David Cohen, a former senior official of the Central Intelligence Agency, who is in charge of the Intelligence Division, Libutti was at the forefront of Police Department efforts to prevent and prepare for any possible terrorist attacks.
Inspector Sal DiPace, coordinating NYPD counterterrorism efforts in Queens, also spoke to the council. DiPace said that NYPD’s Operation Atlas is now in operation.
In the 114th, as well as other precincts, critical response cars are available to watch over or patrol designated locations. In addition, precincts have developed "stand alone" plans of action in case of a communications break down.
DiPace said Emergency Services Unit (ESU) personnel and other specialized task force members of the department are on special alerts citywide. He urged citizens to be vigilant and report anything suspicious or out of the ordinary to the special hot line for terrorism, 1-888-NYC-SAFE. "Every call is taken as a lead that could be developed into a case," said DiPace. Since September, NYPD has gotten over 700 calls to its terrorism hot line, including 100 in the last week alone, according to ABC news.
Bloomberg described the members of the NYPD as first preventers: instead of the more commonly referred to "first responders." "The first job [of the NYPD] is to make sure tragedy doesn’t happen here," he said.
Seabrook was cited for three arrests on the evening of February 23. Deputy Inspector David Barrere, 114th Precinct commanding officer, said Seabrook observed and stopped a vehicle with three males in it who fit a description broadcast over the radio. After obtaining permission to conduct a search, Seabrook recovered a semi-automatic weapon and a cache of marijuana. The gun was determined to have been used in a prior shooting. Barrere praised Seabrook for bringing the suspects in without incident or injury.
"If we don’t have safe streets we don’t have a civilization," Bloomberg said. "The NYPD does a great job because they have the support of the public. Cop of the Month really does help, so keep that up."