2014-01-29 / Features

Lawmakers Call For Beefed-Up Enforcement On Roosevelt Avenue Corridor

By Liz Goff

A pair of western Queens lawmakers last week called on Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to bring his “Zero Tolerance” crime strategies back to the Roosevelt Avenue corridor by re-establishing a Roosevelt Avenue Task Force to police the commercial strip.

State Sen. Jose Peralta and City Councilmember Julissa Ferreras made the plea in a January 14 letter to the city’s top cop, asking Bratton to commit additional resources to “rescue the economic heart of the community” from the pimps, prostitutes, counterfeiters and others who have stymied efforts to revive the struggling strip.

Peralta and Ferreras made mention in their letter of the highly effective Task Force established in November 1993 by Bratton and then-NYPD Queens Borough Commander Asst. Chief Robert Burke. The enforcement effort was described in a July 1995 New York Times article as “one of the most visible and effective assaults on criminal activity in Queens – and in the city.”

“To overcome the extent, depth and magnitude of the violence and criminal activity plaguing Roosevelt Avenue today, we would like to suggest that you consider working to launch a similarly comprehensive, targeted emergency operation,” Peralta and Ferreras said in their letter.

Peralta said he realizes that cleaning up Roosevelt Avenue is no easy task, but it can be accomplished with the same enforcement and effort that went into the city’s irca-1980s rehabilitation of the Times Square area.

Peralta heralded Bratton’s participation in the Times Square crackdown and the Roosevelt Avenue Task Force in the letter saying, “We need (Bratton) to bring that experience to bear for Roosevelt Avenue to realize its untapped potential as an economic engine and a source of jobs.”

Under the original enforcement effort, the commanding officers of the 110th and 115th Precincts were responsible for initial organization and day-to-day operation of the Task Force. Both commanders supervised specialized details of officers at the two precincts, along with officers assigned to from specialized NYPD units such as Queens Vice, the NYPD Fireworks Interdiction Team, the Traffic Enforcement Unit, Auto Theft Unit, the highly effective Queens North Task Force and other specialized units, and police officials analyzed crime statistics along Roosevelt Avenue on a daily basis.

The Task Force itself was comprised of 23 police officers from the two precincts, supervised by three sergeants – a permanent roster of 26 officers and supervisors who shared responsibilities for policing the corridor.

The Task Fore became a permanent fixture on Roosevelt Avenue with the establishment of a mobile NYPD Substation located at 86th Street. The Task Force was described as one of the most successful crime prevention strategies “to date” because it was established to specifically deal with crime along Roosevelt Avenue – a bustling commercial district that had become a breeding ground for drugs, prostitution related and other serious crimes.

Statistics released in 1995 by the NYPD showed a 30 percent drop in homicides, a 25 per cent drop in auto crimes, 23 per cent drop in robberies, 18 per cent drop in burglaries and an 13 per cent drop in grand larcenies along the corridor in the two years after the Task Force was first established. Quality of Life crimes also dropped drastically along the strip, delighting merchants and area residents who felt safer, more secure while shopping there.

Late City Councilmember Walter McCaffrey joined in the effort to clean up Roosevelt Avenue by establishing a crackdown with NYPD officials on prostitution and related offenses, and by ramping up enforcement by other city agencies including Sanitation, Buildings, Traffic, Transportation, Environmental, the Taxi & Limousine Commission and other agencies that deal directly with quality of life conditions.

“The problems that exist along Roosevelt Avenue hurt our working, immigrant community,” Ferreras said. “These problems negatively affect our quality of life,” she said.

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