Food, Music, Fun Highlight Nat’l Night Out In Queens
National Night Out Against Crime celebrations for 2005 took place in more than 87 locations throughout the city, including almost every police precinct in Queens, and were a success for the 23rd year in a row. Queens’ host precinct, the 109th, held their event in the schoolyard of P.S. 20, the John Bowne Elementary School, 142-30 Barclay Ave., Flushing, where guests included Borough President Helen Marshall, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Assistant Chief James Tuller, commanding officer, Patrol Borough Queens North, Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Bruno, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and several elected and police officials. They were joined by thousands of New Yorkers at National Night Out sites at Happy Warrior Park in the 24th Precinct in Manhattan, at Victory Boulevard and Clove Road in the 120th Precinct in Staten Island, the Christian Cultural Center in the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn and at East 230th Street and Laconia Avenue in the 47th Precinct in The Bronx as well as at P.S. 20 in the109th Precinct in Queens. The community-oriented event is part of a national effort to heighten public awareness of crime, illegal narcotics and domestic violence, and to strengthen police and community relations.
At National Night Out celebrations throughout the city, Police Department Crime Prevention Unit taught New Yorkers how to protect their homes, businesses, and even their own identities against theft. There were also opportunities for community members to sign up for the Auxiliary Police Program or a Civilian Observation Patrol and for children to enroll in the Law Enforcement Explorers Program. In addition, Community Affairs and Youth Officers were also on hand to treat children to face and hand painting, and to take their fingerprints and photos for Kid Care ID Kits. There were also demonstrations by some Police Department elite units, including the Bomb Squad, the Mounted Unit, the K-9 Unit, Recruitment and the Emergency Services Unit. Members of the Fire Department Fire Safety Education Division also took part in celebrations at several communities throughout the city to provide information about recruitment, fire safety, carbon monoxide and other important information.
“Crime continues to go down across the city to its lowest level in decades thanks to the partnership between the Police Department and community members,” Kelly said. “That partnership is getting stronger every day, but we can’t afford to sit back and rest on our success. We have to continue to work hard to make the ongoing crime reduction a permanent part of life in New York City.”
Crime in New York City is down by nearly 20 percent since 2001, and down dramatically in almost every major crime category. Since 2001, murders are down 19.2 percent; rapes are down 13.8 percent; robbery has gone down 13.7 percent; felony assaults are down 27.2 percent; burglary is down 27.9 percent and grand larceny auto has dropped 36.9 percent.
“Raising awareness about crime and crime prevention at the community level has been an important part of reducing crime citywide,” Bloomberg said. “National Night Out Against Crime is an excellent way for communities to meet and get to know the Police Officers who are working day in and day out to keep their streets safe. Crime in New York City continues to drop to levels not seen since the 1960s, with overall crime down almost 20 percent from four years ago. In addition, we are on course for our fourth straight year with fewer than 600 murders. According to FBI statistics, New York City continues to be the safest big city in America. I want to thank all New Yorkers who came out tonight and who care deeply about keeping our city safe.”
Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens/Manhattan) joined residents of Western Queens at Astoria Park and at Middle Court of Astoria Houses on 8th Street and Astoria Boulevard for National Night Out Against Crime festivities. At both events, Maloney commended the officers of the 114th Police Precinct for their outstanding work throughout the year. She also recognized the significant contributions toward crime prevention and quality of life improvements by the members of the 114th Precinct Community Council.
Maloney conferred Certificates of Special Congressional Recognition on 114th Precinct Commanding Officer Inspector David Barrere, Anita Jackson, PSA 9 Community Affairs Officer, and all officers of the 114th Precinct for their outstanding service to the community and for crime reduction within the precinct of 67 percent since 1993.
Ann Bruno, president of the 114th Precinct Community Council, Juanita Brathwaite, president of Community Police Council, PSA 9, and Carolyn McAuthur, president of Astoria Houses Resident Association, also received certificates in recognition of their outstanding service to the community through ongoing efforts to reduce crime and improve the neighborhood’s quality of life. Maloney also recognized the outstanding, significant contributions to community safety made by James and Barbara Pollock, president and vice president, respectively, of the 114th Civilian Observation Patrol.
Maloney noted the dramatic reduction in crime throughout Western Queens neighborhoods and commented on crime prevention programs aimed at further reducing crime. “Over the past several years our city streets have become dramatically safer,” she said. “That’s a result of the hard work of our police officers, and in particular, I want to commend the officers of the 114th Precinct. Crime is at a 25-year low across the country and right here in the 114th Precinct crime has declined by an estimated 67 percent since 1993, murder has dropped by 69 percent, rape by 24 percent, and robbery by 73 percent.
“Even though President [George W. Bush] regrettably proposed cutting the COPS [Community Oriented Policing Services] program in the budget this year, we were able in Congress to provide $606 million for the program to support manpower in fighting crime and for technological upgrades at local precincts to fight crime. Over one-third ($250 million) of the 2005 budget is designated for police department grants to upgrade interoperable communications. As a result of the hard work of New York’s police officers and broadened community policing, our streets are much safer and our quality of life has improved tremendously. There’s always more to be done to fight crime, but tonight we say ‘thank you’ to New York’s Finest and the community leaders who work with our police officers in reducing crime and improving quality of life in each one of New York's neighborhoods.”
National Night Out Against Crime this year fell on the birthday of Captain Gene Jackson of the 115th Precinct’s Auxiliary Police, who was serenaded with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” by everyone present at Northern Playground on Northern Boulevard, across from precinct headquarters in Jackson Heights. Deputy Inspector Dennis Rolston, commanding officer of the 115th Precinct, inaugurated ceremonies by praising the community in which he works. He said he believes that the local populace and the police have established an excellent relationship.
City Councilmember Helen Sears said that other precincts were busy putting on superb NOAC ceremonies of their own, and having visited all of them in her district before coming to the 115th’s presentation, she was playing no favorites and would not say she had saved the best for last. But she could have been forgiven for favoring an event with live music, and this year the 115th provided not one musical group but two. She presented the precinct with a certificate of appreciation from the City Council.
The precinct, by way of Dorothy Phelan, head of its community council, presented certificates of appreciation as well, notably to Peter Rivera of White Castle, who was responsible for securing all the food offered to those in attendance: hamburgers from White Castle, of course, chicken from KFC and ices from Lemon Ice King of Corona. Another certificate went to Marta Lebreton, who works with the community council and who has aided the precinct with such services as providing food for police officers on duty during the winter holidays. In tribute to her wide-ranging civic work, Phelan said of Lebreton, “Look at her face, remember her name. You’ll be hearing from her.”
In addition to Sears, who represents the 25th City Council District, politicians attending the 115th’s Night Out Against Crime festivities were Hiram Monserrate of the 21st Council District; Assemblymember José Peralta of the 39th Assembly District, and state Senator John Sabini of the 13th Senate District. Sabini praised the police and said their pay raise was a good thing. “They won the war on crime,” he said. “They deserve the credit.” Peralta hailed the way the 115th Precinct has been “bridging the gap” between itself and the community. He recalled his younger days, when he distrusted the police. That changed after his brother became a cop, he said. Monserrate presented his new face, shorn of the mustache he had worn for a long time, and urged public protest of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of a council bill calling for free parking meters on Sundays.
The music was provided, first by the five-member Kane Brothers Blues Band, back by popular demand after a fine 2004 showing, and then by the Kim Clarke Trio. The Kane Brothers are Anthony, on amplified mouth organ and vocals and Jonathan, on drums. Joining them are Josh Colow on guitar and vocals, Joel Poluck on guitar and Ray Ploutz on bass. They played a long, enthusiastic single set, interrupted briefly when Jonathan Kane punctured the head of his bass drum and had to install a replacement head while the audience watched with interest. The high-volume band was followed by the Kim Clarke Trio, led by East Elmhurst’s Ms. Clarke on bass with Tim Siciliano on guitar and Skip Scott on drums.
Also participating in National night Out Against Crime at precinct-sponsored events in his district was City Councilmember Tony Avella, who attended events at the 111th Precinct in Bayside as well as at the 109th. More than 30 million people were expected to participate in various anti-crime programs and activities across the country.
Thomas Cogan reported on celebrations in the 115th Precinct for this article.