Vallone Strikes Back With Neighborhood War On Crime
A new team of civilian crime busters is about to hit the streets of Astoria and Long Island City.
Members of a new Neighborhood Watch, initiated by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., are undergoing training at One Police Plaza to qualify as volunteer eyes and ears of officers at the 114th Precinct, Vallone spokesperson Danny Macias said.
Police officials and Vallone are urging residents and business owners in Astoria and Long Island City to join the 24 area residents that have signed up for the Neighborhood Watch, to deal with suspicious characters and behavior they may encounter along local streets.
Volunteers are required to attend an initial information meeting to obtain identification cards and a series of formal training sessions that provide instruction on spotting crime, information gathering and reporting procedures, police officials said.
The NYPD Neighborhood Watch Program was first established in 1965, following the March 13, 1964 stabbing death of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese, who was stalked by a murderous stranger as she walked to her apartment on Austin Street in Forest Hills.
Detectives later discovered that 38 people had witnessed the murder, but only one man called the police – a half hour after Kitty’s final screams pierced the air. The silence of Kitty’s neighbors made headlines worldwide and became one of the most shamefully graphic depictions of indifference in inner-city life.
Vallone’s new Neighborhood Watch will work in conjunction with the 114th Civilian Observation “Civ Op” Patrol, an all-volunteer group established in 1980.
Under the watchful eye of founders Jimmy and Barbara Pollock, volunteers at the 114th Civ Op have logged more than 6,000 hours since 1980. Volunteers patrol local streets on foot and in their private vehicles and help police at the 114th Precinct maintain quality of life throughout the Astoria and Long Island City communities.
The 114th Civ Op, in 2009, was presented with the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award – a volunteer service award honoring organizations that accumulate 4,000 hours of community service.
“I wish more people would get involved in local crime fighting programs,” Barbara Pollock said. “We have done so much with so few people. Imagine what could be accomplished with a large number of volunteers.”
Pollock said the Civ Op was initially established to help deter crime in local neighborhoods. “We made a difference just by being on the street,” she said.
Pollock said people have to understand that a reduction in crime and improved quality of life can only be maintained if residents get involved – and stay involved in groups like the Civ Op and the Neighborhood Watch.
“Volunteers can help reduce crime by acting as a deterrent,” she declared. “But you have to stay involved to maintain improved conditions.”
The Civ Op is looking forward to working with the Neighborhood Watch to help reduce crime in the area, Pollock said.
The Civ Op has also earned a reputation for its efforts to battle the scourge of graffiti in the Astoria and Long Island City communities. Volunteers have cleaned up and maintained more than 400 graffiti-plagued locations over the last decade and will continue to tackle walls, storefronts and any other location defaced by graffiti vandals, Pollock said.
Vallone said the new Neighborhood Watch would be up and running by the end of the summer and is urging residents to sign up as volunteers for the program.
“Our police officers are doing a tremendous job of keeping our streets safe by preventing and fighting crime,” said Vallone, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee. “But each day less and less cops are patrolling our neighborhoods.”
“Precincts are operating at half strength and require assistance,” Vallone said. “That’s where the Neighborhood Watch comes in.
“The first 24 volunteers will hopefully be the first of many who step forward to help our brave men and women in blue keep our community safe,” he said.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the Neighborhood Watch is urged to call Vallone’s office at 718-274-4500.
To volunteer with the 114th Precinct Civilian Observation Patrol, call Barbara Pollock at 718-728-8763.
“People make all the difference in fighting crime in our neighborhoods,” Pollock said. “Remember, if you see something, say something – and get involved by volunteering with a group that provides appropriate training and support services.”