Northeast Queens is about to get more blue.
The 109th Precinct is set to receive a huge influx of officers as part of a new community policing program to increase the number of “beat cops” in Flushing, Whitestone, College Point and the surrounding neighborhoods.
The initiative will increase the ranks of officers in the 109th Precinct by about a third, according to Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, the precinct’s commander.
Many of the new officers will be recent graduates of the police academy. The first wave of 19 new officers has already begun acclimating and a second wave of 15 more cops will be added to the precinct upon their graduation from the academy in March. Some officers will also be reallocated to the 109 from other city precincts.
The 109th Precinct is the second-largest in the city, according to Conforti, with a recorded population of 247,000 people and an undocumented population of as many as 200,000 additional residents.
Conforti said that residents have often complained to him on how little they see officers “walking the beat” on a daily basis and interacting with the community.
The deputy inspector said personnel resources have been shifted across the entire NYPD within the last five years as approximately 5,000 to 6,000 officers retired from the force without being replaced by new hires. This can lead to less police being available for neighborhood interaction on busy days as priority is placed on emergency 911 calls.
“It’s a challenge to make sure the police resources that I have are at the right locations,” Conforti said.
Whitestone and College Point residents have long called for a police substation in their area so quality-of-life concerns in northern neighborhoods would not be drowned out by the frequency of crime in the dense population of downtown Flushing.
Cops who are part of the new neighborhood community officer program will not leave their neighborhood zones to respond to emergencies, but will rather focus on understanding the local dynamics of their assigned area.
The new cops were secured following negotiations between Councilman Paul Vallone with One Police Plaza and the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio. The community policing program has been tested in other parts of the city but never before in northern Queens and the deal also includes an influx of new police vehicles, according to Vallone.
Vallone said he and other community leaders used the NYPD’s choice of their area for a much-criticized tow pound as political leverage to negotiate for the extra personnel resources.
“Enough with bringing things to College Point and not getting anything back, right? You gotta negotiate.” Vallone said. “Politics 101: if you’re going to do something, you gotta give something.”