2017-02-08 / Front Page

108th Police Precinct Community Council

By Thomas Cogan
Captain Ralph Forgione was appointed commander of the 108th Precinct in November but had to wait until the last day of January to conduct his first community council meeting.  Even then, much of the evening’s business consisted of a tribute to and an address by the former commander, Deputy Inspector John Travaglia.  The new commander was amazed by the low-and-getting-lower crime rate but had to acknowledge the persistence of such hard-to-kill categories as grand larceny and grand larceny auto. 

Diane Ballek, president of the precinct’s community council, said that as usual, there was no meeting in December, when the needy children’s Christmas party was the council’s main topic of attention.  It was attended by 120 kids and she called it a great success.  She introduced Capt. Forgione, who said that when he first noticed the falling crime rate in the 108th he thought it might just be a lucky streak but had to admit after a couple of years of steady decline that it was real. 

Though he identified grand larceny and GLA as the sore spots, he could have brought up burglary, the crime that seemed to bother D.I. Travaglia most when he was commander.  Statistics for the first month of 2017 show burglary up 200 percent, jumping from six to 18 in the first 28 days, with one more occurring in the time remaining.  But while concentrating on grand larceny auto he expressed dismay that some drivers still go out of their cars and leave the keys in the ignition slot.  Grand larceny itself, as it relates to parked cars, is encouraged when drivers or riders leave laptops and other valuables on the front or back seats, where they can be seized by passersby who are willing either to force car doors or smash windows to get them.

Taking up the topic of crime also, Detective Toro got in a few more words for mailbox “fishing” and check-washing.  To those who have listened to him in the past, Toro should be remembered as disdaining checks in the first place; he said at the meeting that he hasn’t used them for years.  He described the way thieves manage to draw envelopes from mailboxes, open the ones apparently containing checks (for bill-paying and such), wash the checks with acetone, removing anything handwritten in ink, and write in higher amounts that can be cashed against the account of the actual payer.  Part of this narrative is the news that there’s a pen whose ink resists acetone.  Several of those pens were passed out, courtesy of the NYPD.

When he was awarded a plaque of appreciation for his two years as precinct commander, November 2014-16, D.I. Travaglia said he should be awarding a plaque to the community that supported him and his officers during the time he called the best two years of his career.  At the same time he called the 108th Precinct the best command in the entire department.  State Senator Michael Gianaris was present to give him additional awards from city and state.  He was also awarded a made-up street sign proclaiming “Deputy Inspector John Travaglia Boulevard.”   

As he said near the end of his two year term as precinct commander, he expects transfer and goes where he is sent.  In this instance it was to a building on Hudson Street in Manhattan that is the departmental office of the Bureau of Internal Affairs, which investigates possible wrongdoing within the force. 

He told the meeting that his new post is different, to say the least.  He said that in a precinct command a case that is solved is an occasion for “high-fives” and celebration, but a case in Internal Affairs that concludes with a judgement of guilt is an occasion for sadness that one of your own has become an  offender.  He stressed that the number of offenders is small but it’s a pity there are any.  As a precinct commander, he said he was a tireless reader of crime reports and in Internal Affairs he reads all bureau reports also.  He said they reveal to him not so much bad policing as a “disconnect” between precinct and community. 

He did have a congratulatory word to pass along, though:  last fall, Diana L. Pizzuti, former commanding officer of Patrol Borough Queens North was advanced to the rank of bureau chief and named chief of personnel for the entire police department.  That’s old news, but D.I. Travaglia said that Bureau Chief Pizzuti doesn’t get enough credit for being the first woman to hold this office and he thought she should be saluted.          

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