In an effort to help the NYPD battle crime and quality-of-life problems in the neighborhood, several Howard Beach residents are seeking to form a civilian observation patrol for the community.
Joe Thompson, who is spearheading the plan to start the patrol, said he got the idea after a series of break-ins in Howard Beach in March. Though crime is down in the neighborhood — and the precinct as a whole — as compared to last year, the burglary spree caused some residents to be concerned about the safety situation. Police beefed up their presence in the neighborhood, but Thompson said residents are looking for more.
“People are asking for help,” he said. “There are a lot of concerns down there. I think the civilian patrol would really help the neighborhood.”
Thompson said he has 30 years of experience in community watch groups and was an auxiliary police officer for a decade. He has met with the 106th Precinct and elected officials about the idea and said he has their support.
The group, which is still in its early stages of forming, would have to go through the proper training and follow the guidelines of community watch groups, which are put together by the NYPD community affairs office. The patrol would not carry weapons and would not take an action against criminals, leaving that for the uniformed officers.
Civilian observation patrols exist all over the city and are considered by the NYPD to be the “eyes and ears” of the community. Detective Kenneth Zorn, community affairs officer at the 106th Precinct, said civilian patrols existed along Rockaway Boulevard and in Ozone Park in the 1980s and 1990s.
“We’re not new to this,” he said.
The Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol will hold its first meeting and recruitment session on June 24 at 7:30 p.m. in St. Helen School at 157-10 83 St. The organization also can be found at the Twitter handle @HowardBeachCOP.