2012-09-26 / Front Page

All-Out To Beat Crime

BY LIZ GOFF


(L. to r.); Police Officers Jurewicz and Esposito of the 114th Precinct walk the beat down Steinway Street as part of their precinct’s plan to fight crime by increased police presence on commercial strips. 
Photo Jason D. Antos (L. to r.); Police Officers Jurewicz and Esposito of the 114th Precinct walk the beat down Steinway Street as part of their precinct’s plan to fight crime by increased police presence on commercial strips. Photo Jason D. Antos The beat cop is back in Astoria.

Officials at the 114th Precinct are waging an all-out war on crime in the command by beefing up police presence on commercial strips with help from cops assigned to the NYPD’s “Operation All- Out”.

The highly touted operation pulls cops assigned to clerical duties at precincts within specific borough commands and temporarily reassigns them to turn out, twice each week, to walk a beat in precincts with spiraling crime statistics, police officials said.

“Beat cops are an invaluable tool in the war on crime,” a top-ranking NYPD official told the Gazette. “They are a powerful presence on the streets because they give people a sense of greater security – and they make criminals think twice before they prey on innocent victims.

“Officers on foot patrol also help to reduce the amount of time it takes to respond to calls. They can respond more quickly to radio runs, simply because they’re out there,” the official said.

Recently released statistics show that crime, citywide, is at near record-low levels, despite a recent uptick in incidents reported at the 76 police precincts, 12 Transit Districts, nine Housing Police Service Areas (PSA) and other investigative and specialized NYPD units.

The numbers released last week as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s semiannual Mayor’s Management Report also indicate that cops have been slower to respond to crimes in progress – the worst response time since Bloomberg took office in 2002.

Statistics show that for most of Bloomberg’s three terms, cops were able to reach crime scenes in less than eight minutes. But that changed in 2011 when response times jumped to 8.4 minutes, the report states.

Not so, police officials said. NYPD statistics show that cops are responding to crimes like robbery in progress or armed suspects in 4.6 minutes.

The increase in response time shown in the mayor’s report is attributed to a high volume of “non-critical calls” – complaints that do not pose immediate threat of injury, officials said. Records show that it took cops an average of 13.3 minutes to respond to non-critical calls during the first six months of 2012, up from 12.9 minutes in 2011.

The mayor’s report also shows that there were 4,000 more major felony crimes last year, up from 15,496 in 2011 to 109,299 in 2012.

NYPD statistics show that felony crime has risen 11 percent in the 114th Precinct in the last year.

There were seven murders in the 114th Precinct in 2012, including two “domestic” murders by spouses or live-in partners, up from four murders in 2011, records show.

Robberies increased by eight percent in the same period and felony assaults have spiked 10 percent.

Grand larcenies have more than doubled in the precinct area, where a reported 155 stolen cars account for a spike in grand larceny auto.

More than half of all robberies reported in the 114th Precinct occur overnight and more than 90 percent of those crimes involve a single victim and most felony assaults are also likely to occur in the overnight hours, statistics show.

Burglaries have also increased in the precinct area, where most break-ins take place during the daytime – when residents are at work or out of the house.

Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr., who chairs the Council Public Safety Committee, said the spike in crime across the city may be attributed to too few police officers on the street.

“The numbers show the increased strain on the police force we have,” said Vallone. “They’re trying to respond to more calls for help with fewer officers.

“We have to remember that the increase in crime is citywide, not just in the 114th Precinct. We are not the only precinct fighting a war against crime.”

114th Precinct Commander, Deputy Inspector Stephen Cirabisi, has a reputation as a hands-on manager who spends hours patrolling local streets to determine ways to tackle the spiraling statistics.

“He’s not the kind of guy who sits on his thumbs waiting for things to change,” an NYPD official said. “Quite frankly, people in that community are lucky to have him at this time.”

Cirabisi commands a force of approximately 160 officers (a number that is constantly changing), assigned to an area that includes neighborhoods in Astoria, Old Astoria, Astoria Heights, Dutch Kills, East Elmhurst, Long Island City (north of the Queensboro Bridge), Ravenswood, portions of Woodside and three public housing projects. The 114th Precinct command encompasses one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the city.

The precinct, which oversees a portion of LaGuardia Airport and roadways leading to the Queensboro and RFK Triborough Bridges, is one of the largest, busiest and most complex commands in New York City.

Operation All-Out was established by the NYPD in the late 1990s, during Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s all out war on crime, police officials said. “It was an important tool in the NYPD’s phenomenal effort to take back the streets.”

The operation took on new muscle in 2009, when current NYPD Chief of Patrol James Hall strengthened its premise to provide backup for high crime areas throughout the five boroughs, police officials said.

Hall established All-Out Fridays that send at least five cops and one supervisor from each precinct in the borough to the streets, officials said. “Where possible, the operation pulls one sergeant and seven officers for reassignment to foot patrol on All Out Friday, to walk a beat in areas where conditions cry out for more police presence,” the officials said.

Precinct participation in All-Out is determined by crime statistics presented by command officials to a panel of the city’s top cops at monthly Compstat meetings. Commanders are required, at the infamous bare-knuckle briefings, to present proactive solutions to any spike in one or all seven major crime categories, including murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto.

“All-Out gives precinct commanders a greater enforcement tool to address conditions that defy solution,” police officials said.

Vallone praised NYPD officials for bringing Operation All-Out to the 114th Precinct but questioned its effectiveness as a permanent solution to the city’s rising crime statistics.

“It is always good to get cops out from behind desks, but it is not the solution to this problem,” Vallone said. “We need to hire more cops and hire more civilians to put behind desks.

The Astoria lawmaker has consistently joined a chorus of police officials calling for an immersion of cops to the 114th Precinct through the NYPD’s Operation Impact.

Neighborhoods designated as “Operation Impact Zones” are provided with increased enforcement by rookie cops who walk a beat in the area, along with cops from specialized drug, burglary and anti-crime units.

The immersion of police in the designated zones has successfully decreased crime in some of the city’s most notorious neighborhoods, police officials said.

While praising Operation Impact for its effectiveness to battle crime, Vallone pointed out some problems that plague the program.

“I have always said criminals are like roaches,” Vallone said. “You step on them in one place, they pop up someplace else.

“There was a recent article in which the Captain of the 76th Precinct (in Brooklyn), said cops were cracking down on criminals in Red Hook and they are now moving and robbing residents in the neighboring communities of Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill,” Vallone said.

“There is no doubt in my mind that that’s exactly what is happening with cops (assigned to Operation Impact) flooding the nearby 115th Precinct – criminals are coming here,” Vallone said.

“We absolutely need more officers at the 114th Precinct and Operation Impact is a start, but we need them full time.”

“It’s always great to have additional cops patrolling the streets,” City Council candidate Antonio Meloni said.

Meloni, an Astoria native, is vying for the council seat that Vallone must vacate in January due to city term limits.

“There is always a positive result when you have police officers walking a beat and interacting with people in an operation like All Out,” Meloni said. “But that’s not the solution to the recent increase in crime throughout the city.

“The solution is simple,” Meloni said. “We need to hire additional police officers to win this war on crime – and to help shorten response time.”

NYPD Transit Chief Joseph Fox has assigned officers to patrol streets around subway entrances in Queens and the 114th Precinct, to ward off thugs and thieves that prey on straphangers, police officials said.

Fox has also assigned cops to late night patrols along entire subway lines in Queens, the officials said. The officers walk subway platforms, checking inside trains for drunken, disorderly passengers – and sleeping straphangers, officials said.

The program has, to date, provided a 16 percent drop in subway crime in Queens.

An increase in the number of Auxiliary officers on foot patrol in the 114th Precinct is also adding to the sea of blue along commercial strips in the command.

NYPD officials said Cirabisi is working with the 114th Precinct Auxiliary commander to recruit new volunteer cops for the unit.

Area residents who sign up to become Auxiliary Police Officers receive NYPD training in almost every aspect of enforcement, but they do not carry a gun and they cannot make arrests.

“Auxiliary officers act as the eyes and ears of the NYPD,” the officials said. “They can detain an individual suspected of committing a crime while they call for police to respond to the scene.

“These people work tirelessly without pay to provide a deterrent to crime,” officials said. Auxiliary cops in New York City are expected to do more, these days, than just stand around and give directions.

For information, or to join the NYPD Auxiliary Police Department at the 114th Precinct call 718-626-9311.

Residents and business owners in the 114th Precinct are also urged to take advantage of services provided by the precinct Crime Prevention Unit, which offers free crime prevention surveys, auto and bicycle identification programs and other outreach designed to thwart criminal activity in the command.

For information on these and other services, call 114th Precinct Crime Prevention Officer John Glynn at 718-626-9324.

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