“If you see something, say something,” — that’s the slogan that agencies like the Police Department have been using since the weeks after 9/11, but when one Community Board 12 member tried to do just that, she said, the officers she spoke to did nothing.
The Rev. C. Princess Thorbs, a former police officer, confronted Deputy Inspector Miltiadis Marmara, the commanding officer of the 113th Precinct, about the incident at the Feb. 15 CB 12 meeting as the top cop was giving a presentation on crime statistics and prevention, touting what he considers the precinct’s good work.
Thorbs, who lives on 116th Avenue and 145th Street in South Ozone Park, and her neighbor and fellow board member, Tyquana Henderson, who lives on 115th Avenue, said there has been a rash of car break-ins in their area over the last month, extending from Foch Boulevard to Linden Boulevard.
On one occasion at around 5:30 a.m., she said her husband, the Rev. John McGee, saw a man park his white minivan on the block and start going into going into yards, checking cars on parking pads for valuables. At one point, Thorbs said, when the would be thief got back into his vehicle and realized that he had left one area unchecked, he went back. It happened to be her brother’s yard, and when McGee confronted the man, he fled.
Thorbs said she called 311, which directed her to call 911, which told her to go to the precinct. “I saw some officers on the street,” Thorbs said. “I stopped them and asked them if they could come to my house and make a report. ... The officers refused to take a report. They’re rude.”
Thorbs later said all they did was refer her back to 311 because she surmised that they did not consider it an emergency since no one was hurt. She did not tell them that she is a retired cop. “I just wanted to let them do their jobs,” Thorbs said.
The minister at New Jerusalem Baptist Church said others who live nearby have told her they have had similar experiences when trying to report the recent car break-ins to the police.
“My neighbor, she is a German young lady, and an officer said to her — and it’s the same officer that always comes to her house — ‘Too bad. You live in a high crime area,’” said Thorbs, who did not mention during the meeting that she used to be a cop.
Thorbs also said seniors who have tried to report break-ins were told they had taken too long to contact the police. She also noted that she has heard of police officers calling out “Hey you” or “Yo,” to some elders, which she thinks is especially disrespectful.
“I understand that this does not reflect you and I understand when new officers come out on the street, but some officers are old or older and seasoned and should know better,” Thorbs said. “And some of the new ones have this thing going on where they are looking at people with the evil eye.”
Thorbs offered to visit the precinct in her capacity as a minister and give the officers on every shift sensitivity training so that they could be better prepared to properly interact with the community. But Marmara did not say whether he would take her up on her offer.
“They need to remember community policing and I will gladly come to your roll call with my collar on to explain it to them, because there are worse places they could be,” Thorbs said, adding, “If they were in a Jewish community ... it would be dealt with and handled differently, and they would know what line they could cross.”
Marmara suggested that people who have encountered problems with officers at the 113 contact him directly or refer their issues to the Civilian Complaint Review Board or Internal Affairs.
“It has nothing to do with community policing,” Marmara said. “It has to do with being a proper, professional police officer.”
Thorbs said Tuesday that she felt satisfied Marmara had taken her concerns seriously. “From his track record, he seems like an upstanding officer,” Thorbs said. “Time will tell.”
Some 70 new police officers were assigned to the 113th Precinct in mid-January, according to Marmara, who added that they are being sent to high crime areas — or “hot zones” — on the busiest shifts.
“They are going to be out there enforcing quality of life, enforcing parking summonses and catching some of the individuals committing our crime,” Marmara said. “But what’s also very important to me is all of us working together. I want these officers to feel like they are a part of our community and that they understand our community.”