BY SALVATORE LICATA
Howard Beach is hoping to add a few more sets of eyes and ears to its streets in hopes of preventing crime.
The Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol, is a soon-to-be nonprofit group of residents that will be keeping a watchful eye on the neighborhood. In an effort to keep crime down, volunteers of the group will patrol the neighborhood and report to the police any suspicious activity that may be going on.
“Howard Beach residents are screaming for assistance,” Joe Thompson, president and founder of the organization, said. “We are going to be the eyes and ears of the neighborhood and it is up to us as a community to report any crimes.”
Thompson said he decided to start the patrol group after hearing resident’s concerns at community meetings.
Crime is down slightly so far this year in the 106th Precinct, but a recent rash of burglaries in Howard Beach set off fears in the community.
Thompson has over 30 years of experience in community watch groups and was an auxiliary police officer for 10 years. He said he hopes this group will help to prevent crime from happening but also noted that his patrol units will take no physical action if they see suspicious activity.
“We will have uniforms but no weapons at all,” Thompson said. “We will not take any action against criminals, our job is to just report what we see to the police. We don’t want to be seen as vigilantes.”
Thompson said he has met with the 106th Precinct and government officials and has their okay to go along with the program as long as the group goes through the proper training and follows the guidelines of community watch groups, as stated by the community affairs office of the NYPD.
“We are always looking for people to get involved,” said Kenneth Zorn, the community affairs officer for the 106th Precinct. “It is a large commitment but these people volunteer their time to help improve the quality of life for the community.”
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo also offered his support to Thompson – but not without some concern.
“We must make it very clear that volunteers must go through the proper training before they patrol,” Addabbo said. “But if it is done correctly it is a positive community program.”
The Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol will hold their first meeting/recruitment session on June 24 at 7:30 p.m. in St. Helen’s School at 157-10 83rd St.
Thompson hopes to gain support for his initiative with other residents at the meeting.
For more information follow Thompson via Twitter @HowardBeachCOP.