Councilman Jim Gennaro’s deputy chief of staff Costa Constantinides, will be running for the position held by term-limited Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) next year with the hopes to help overcrowded schools; dismantle the closed Charles Poletti Power Plant so it can never be used again and support other clean air intiatives; focus on clean parks and streets; and tackle crime in a new way.
Constantinides, a Democrat, said Vallone, the Public Safety Committee chairman, is on point with his approach to crime. He agrees that Queens needs more cops on the streets and as a councilman he would continue Vallone’s push for desk jobs to be manned by civilians, not officers.
“We don’t need them typing, we need them on the street,” Astoria native Constantinides said.
He agrees with stricter gun control laws that would make it harder for people to obtain firearms by allowing only one purchase a month and enforcing background checks on all buys as proposed by state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria).
“We can’t be a society where everyone is packing,” he said.
He also believes that after-school programs keep children busy and thus not looking for something — possibly unproductive — to do. Neighborhood watch, a program Vallone started in Astoria and Constantinides joined, is additionally a program he said contributes to safer neighborhoods.
But unlike Vallone, Constantinides disagrees with the city’s stop-and-frisk policy.
More people are being stopped, and yet crime is on the rise, he noted. In the first six months of this year police made 337,434 stops. Last year officers in total made 685,724 stops, compared to 97,296 in 2002.
In the 114th Precinct, which patrols Astoria, crime has risen 11 percent compared to last year to date. Every category of crime has grown, with two more murders and 11 more rapes. But as with the trend citywide, crime overall has declined in Astoria by 40 percent in the last 11 years and 75 percent in the last 19 years.
“The status quo isn’t working. We need a different approach,” Constantinides said.
His different approach would mimic what he says has worked in Boston and North Carolina and was used in Oakland, called focused deterrence. The strategy consists of officers working with community groups and neighborhood leaders to apply pressure to chronic offenders on corners and blocks known to residents as criminal hangout places.
The idea is that community members know who the few people leading the violent acts and orchestrating drug deals are. By working together the strategy supposedly restores good will between the police department and civilians.
“This will build better community groups and a spirit of togetherness,” Constantinides said. “If they are doing bad acts, hanging out on a certain corner, police will be in that place. Either get busted or don’t deal drugs.”
Officers know the bad clubs, he added, making the point that people who are stopped should be individuals known for their criminal acts, not “someone on the way to a job.”
“Stop and frisk has damaged some good will,” Constantinides said. “Don’t turn everyone into a potential bad apple.”
Vallone has maxed out his 12 years in office, but has made indications that he will run for Queens Borough president. So far one other Democrat, community activist and Immigration Advocacy Services Director Antonio Meloni, has thrown his hat into the ring for Vallone’s old seat. New York Young Republican ClubPresident Daniel Peterson reportedly may run for the spot as well.