All eyes are on Astoria, where, after 25 years without a neighborhood watch program, residents will be getting an extra line of defense.
Initiated by Councilmember Peter Vallone, the Astoria neighborhood watch program, expected to kick off at the end of this summer, will enlist 24 recruits, trained by officials from the New York Police Department. Block watchers will learn the basics in security, scanning the neighborhood for suspicious characters and behavior.
While this group maintains the ability to anonymously report information to police, they are unable to intervene.
According to Vallone, the area had been previously protected by a group called the Civilian Observation Patrol, which focused mainly on stopping graffiti. He hopes to expand the beat, broadening their training and the types of situations they can diffuse.
“We’re going to keep the entire neighborhood under surveillance,” said Vallone.
Astoria resident Bibi Burke joined the newly-resurrected watch program after witnessing an increase in crime throughout her neighborhood. Burke, who has lived there for over 20 years, hopes other locals assist in the group’s efforts.
Vallone, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee, decided to implement a citizen watch program in Astoria following several disconcerting incidents that occurred last fall — including an attempted rape, three shootings over the course of a single weekend, several inappropriate touching occurrences and multiple car break-ins.
The councilmember also claimed there are presently fewer than 35,000 active police officers, down from nearly 41,000 in 2011.
“The police need extra sets of eyes and ears out there,” said Vallone.
If you are interested in joining a neighborhood watch program in Astoria, contact Vallone’s office at 718-274-4500.