Residents packed the 106th Precinct Community Council meeting in Ozone Park on Oct. 10 to voice their complaints on an array of issues.
Before addressing the complaints, Deputy Inspector Thomas Pascale, the precinct’s commanding officer, reminded the audience not to leave expensive items and credit cards in full view in unlocked vehicles. He urged residents to call 911 if they see individuals checking door handles of vehicles on the street and said plainclothes officers will respond.
Inspector Pascale told the audience that although the precinct has fewer police officers, they are working harder and making more arrests and issuing more summonses.
Associate School Safety Officer Debra Eckuland suggested that with the recent increase in thefts of Apple iPhones and iPads, parents not let their children take their Apple products to school. She also suggested that children not wear their jewelry to school.
Nancy Cardenas of Ozone Park complained of aggressive salesmen on 96th Street using high pressure tactics to try to convince homeowners to switch energy service company.
Pascale told Cardenas that while many of these salesmen are legitimate, residents should be on the lookout for what he termed “diversion burglaries,” where one perpetrator will keep the homeowner occupied while the other steals valuables.
Sal Tammaro of Howard Beach complained about drag racing in the vicinity of 161st Avenue and 78th Street in Howard Beach. Pascale advised Tammaro to call 911 when he sees it occurring.
Aside from discussion of local issues, the meeting turned to more official business.
Frank Dardani, president of the community council, read part of a letter from Chief Philip Banks III, commanding officer of the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau. In the letter Banks informed Dardani that with input from community council presidents, the bureau has proposed uniform city precinct community council bylaws.
He said that in 1985, the council had adopted its own governing bylaws which have been used throughout the years. He believes that one uniform set of bylaws should not be imposed to cover all precinct councils, noting each precinct is different.
In 1999 when the NYPD attempted to impose new regulations governing the actions of the city's 85 precinct community councils, the council presidents voiced their strong objections to the proposed regulations.
“The objection that was basically raised by all of the community councils was that the community councils are organizations of the community, we are not an organization of the police department,” said Betty Braton, then-president of the 106th Precinct community council, in 1999.
At the time these regulations were first promulgated, Braton said the community council presidents suggested that the new regulations represented an attempt by the NYPD to increase control of the councils.
Braton told the community council in 1999 that the community council presidents had agreed and so advised the Deputy Commissioner for the Community Affairs Office that the bylaws procedure of each individual council spells out the process of changing them. “If there are to be any changes, those changes will emanate from the membership, not from the police department,” said Braton.
An emailed request for comment from the NYPD was not responded to by press time.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway) addressed the gathering, saying that crime was actually up in the city despite a decline in homicides, and called for the hiring of more police officers to patrol the streets.
“There are not enough officers, we need more officers on the street,” said Goldfeder.
At its peak in 2001, the NYPD had a force of almost 41,000 officers whereas today they are hovering under 35,000.
In Southern Queens and Rockaway, within Patrol Borough Queens South, crime has risen over 6 percent to date compared to a similar time period last year. Specifically the 100th, 101st, and 106th precincts have seen an increase in crime of almost 17 percent.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) who also attended the meeting, discussed four bills aimed at police reform currently before the City Council’s Public Safety Committee — three of which deal with street stops. The fourth bill would create an Office of Inspector General to monitor the Police Department.
Ulrich said he supports the police department's stop-and-frisk policy and opposes the bills and would vote against them if they get to the council floor.
“We can't tie the hands of our police officers,” Ulrich said.
The next meeting of the 106th Precinct Community Council will be on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. at 103-51 101 St.