While petty crime has jumped in the 106th Precinct since the casino opened in South Ozone Park, legislators and civic leaders say they don’t blame the gambling site but instead are pointing their fingers at a lack of police presence and are calling on NYPD brass to ship out more officers to the area.
“We’ve been asking and asking and asking for more police for a long time,” said 106th Precinct Community Council President Frank Dardani. “We needed more police before the casino opened, and we definitely need more police now.”
Because visitors have been flooding into the Resorts World Casino New York City — nine million people are expected to have passed through the precinct solely to go to the facility by the end of next year —legislators said police have been pulled to cover the area around the gambling facility, leaving other parts of the neighborhood vulnerable to crime.
“The spike in crime within the boundaries of the 106th is logical since the area around the casino may not have seen an increase, but the [police] detail is emphasizing the area around the casino and isn’t in other areas that have seen an increase,” state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said.
According to numbers published by the New York Post this week and confirmed by the NYPD, petit larcenies jumped just after the casino opened at the end of October, increasing from 60 in November 2010 to 92 in November 2011. The same report stated that there were 41 misdemeanor assaults in November 2011, which represented a 57.7 percent increase over the 26 in November 2010.
A police spokeswoman said there were 163 petit larcenies from the time the casino opened to the end of the year, seven of which were “casino related.” During the same time period, there were 82 misdemeanor assaults, four of which were related to the gambling establishment, the spokeswoman said.
The spokeswoman also emphasized that while the 106th Precinct has not received any additional permanent officers, the NYPD does often deploy cops to the area.
Residents said they would be remiss to say that the casino directly caused the increase in crime.
“If there’s any correlation, it’s very minimal,” Addabbo said of a relationship between any increase in crime and the casino’s opening. “We’ve had waves of crime before the casino got there. We need more officers, and we’ll continue to fight for them because we’re far below the levels we should be at. Over the years, we’ve seen an elimination of our beat and community officers. My constituents want a police officer on every corner.”
Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Resorts World, said company heads have worked hard with the community to keep crime at a minimum.
“The safety of our patrons is priority number one, and our commitment to keeping criminal activity out of our project has resulted in extremely few incidents on and around the casino property since our opening,” Friedman said.
Still, Councilman Eric Ulrich’s (R-Ozone Park) chief of staff, Bart Haggerty, said the issue is not crime on the casino grounds but in the neighboring streets.
“The question is what’s happening in the surrounding community,” Haggerty said. “We needed more police anyway, and now we have a facility where thousands of people are coming every day.”
Dardani said there are about 125 officers in the precinct, though he said that number isn’t representative of the number of cops actually on the streets.
“You have officers that are actually retired but are still on the books, or officers on light duty,” Dardani said. “All these people are counted on a daily basis, but they’re not actually here.”
While Dardani said he’s not sure how many officers are hitting the pavement in the 106th, he did say that the community council had anticipated receiving about 50 additional officers from the NYPD’s most recent graduating class. Instead, the 106th received none.
About 75 percent of the graduates went to “impact precincts,” or areas where the city has said there’s an especially high demand for a police presence, such as the 103rd Precinct that covers much of Jamaica and Hollis. The other 25 percent went to transit districts, Dardani said.
“We’ve always been told that we’re not a destination, that Manhattan’s a destination,” Dardani said of the explanation city officials would give when the 106th did not receive additional cops in past years. “We’re not a destination? With JFK and Aqueduct, we’re not a destination? We’re a destination now. People are coming for football on the big screen; they’re coming to gamble. They’re coming here.”
Police and residents have noted that temporary additional officers from a detail of one lieutenant, two sergeants and 20 officers will help to patrol the precinct, though not all the time.
The jump in visitors, petty crime and traffic has taxed the community, including the police, leaders said.
Capt. Thomas Pascale, the commanding officer of the 106th Precinct, “has worked extremely hard with the community and casino and has done everything he can with what he has,” Dardani said.
While residents aren’t rushing to sell their homes, that has more to do with the sour economy than a desire to stay in the area, Dardani said.
“If sales were good, you’d probably see that,” he said of residents scrambling to leave the area around the casino. “People don’t go out at night, or they won’t take a walk after work and get their exercise because they’re fearful.”