Boosting the Police Department’s resources and erasing graffiti were among the topics discussed by Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) during his visit to the South Queens Democratic Club in Howard Beach last week.
Introduced by Democratic District Leader Frank Gulluscio, Vallone, chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, told club members at their meeting at Bruno’s Ristorante on Crossbay Boulevard that crime is on the rise citywide, but the number of police on the streets has decreased.
Vallone noted that the number of police has decreased from 41,000 to 34,000 over the past 10 years. He also stressed that the NYPD loses approximately 100 cops a month through attrition and, due to budget constraints, cannot replace those officers.
The councilman argued that the statistic of 34,000 police officers are patrolling the city is misleading because all officers are not hitting the pavement.
He said the Police Department also includes in that number officers who are on desk duty inside precincts, on vacation or taking sick or disability leave.
“Public safety has to be our number one priority,” Vallone said in reference to the city’s next budget.
The councilman said the next Police Academy class, scheduled for January 2012, was in jeopardy because the Occupy Wall Street protestors have so far cost the city $5 million in police overtime.
Police did not comment as to whether the class was in danger of being cancelled.
“There is a fine line between the right to protest and everyone else’s right to safe streets and the use of their own streets, and I think that we have crossed that line now,” Vallone said in reference to those participating in Occupy Wall Street.
Vallone also touched on security concerns following the opening of the casino at Aqueduct in South Ozone Park.
“When something as huge as Aqueduct comes in, you should have more cops, not the same amount of cops that were working in the district,” he said.
While additional officers were brought into the precinct to help with the opening, no additional permanent police officers have been allocated to the area to help deal with issues stemming from the casino.
Vallone was pessimistic about future crime in the city, particularly because he said graffiti is on the rise, which he argued is a “harbinger of things to come.”
“Once the community starts looking bad, once criminals start saying, ‘hey, the police are going to let quality of life crimes like this go,’ worse things start happening in the community,” he said.
The councilman also highlighted his legislative efforts to curb graffiti.
Among the bills he introduced which became law were bans on changing the caps on spray paint caps to “fat caps” for broader lines, as well as the sale of diamond tipped pens, which can be used by vandals to make “scratchitti” on window panes.
“Scratchitti” cannot be removed and the entire window pane has to be replaced, Vallone noted.
He also sponsored a law eliminating the sale of etching acid to individuals under 21 years of age and requiring sellers of the chemical to obtain the I.D. of buyers.
Graffiti on store security gates has also bothered Vallone. As part of his anti-graffiti effort, he sponsored legislation that requires all new roll-down storefront security gates to be mesh or see-through to deter this type of graffiti.
Additionally, the councilman said the old gates present unnecessary and dangerous obstacles to police officers and firefighters responding to emergencies.
By July 1, 2026, all of the businesses covered by the legislation must have the new higher-visibility gates installed.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) told the audience that while the legislative session that ended in June was very successful, there is still much work left to be done in Albany and that is why he believes state legislators should return there to finish business.
With no current timetable to have the lawmakers return to Albany before January, Addabbo said the state legislature needs to deal with a few important issues, including an update on the budget that was passed on time in April, redistricting, halting hydrofracking until a state report is completed and evaluated and moving the effort along to allow full casino gaming in New York State.
Newly-elected Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) spoke at the meeting and invited residents to contact him about any issues they may have. His office is located at 108-14 Crossbay Blvd. in Ozone Park.
Goldfeder’s office telephone number is (718) 641-8755.