For nearly 20 years, Detective Thomas Bell of the 104th Precinct’s Community Affairs Unit has had the responsibility of addressing all kinds of issues raised by local residents, from public nuisances to crime patterns, building relationships along the way.
It’s no surprise, then, that seemingly all of Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village came to thank and honor him as the 104th Precinct’s Cop of the Year during a dinner thrown by the 104th Precinct Community Council on Thursday, Jan. 26, at Villa Erasmo restaurant.
The Middle Village eatery was filled to capacity with Bell’s friends, colleagues and community partners to pay tribute to his years of service and dedication. Len Santoro, president of the 104th Precinct Community Council, remarked that Bell’s selection as Cop of the Year was a natural one considering his hard work in the community.
Bell received accolades from local officials including Public Advocate Letitia James, state Senator Joe Addabbo, Assemblymen Mike Miller and Brian Barnwell, and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. Community organizations such as the Kiwanis Club of Glendale and the Juniper Park Civic Association also paid their homage to the detective.
Assistant Chief Juanita Holmes, commander of Patrol Borough Queens North, led the contingent of NYPD officers past and present who turned out to honor Bell. They included both the current 104th Precinct commander, Deputy Inspector Mark Wachter, and the precinct’s previous commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Christopher Manson, now in charge of the 110th Precinct in Elmhurst.
A U.S. Navy veteran who served during the Persian Gulf War, Bell joined the 104th Precinct’s Community Affairs Unit in June of 2000 and became one of the precinct’s primary liaisons with the communities it serves. Along with addressing problems brought to his attention, he also assists with the planning of various community events and has organized programs designed to build a stronger relationship between police and local youth.
Wachter noted that Bell has been the constant at the 104th Precinct over the last 16 1/2 years, working with five different commanding officers during his tenure.
“That’s a true testament over the many years that Tommy Bell has been in community affairs. He’s the bridge between every CO and the community,” Wachter said.
Of the many things Bell has done through the years, Wachter spoke with pride about the assistance Bell provided to Mr. Hoffman, a 92-year-old man whose Ridgewood home had been burglarized three times. Wachter recalled Bell and the precinct forged a bond with Wilbur Hoffman, and after he died, Bell worked with community partners to help arrange for a proper burial.
“We did everything we could with video cameras and cops in front of his house, but the best thing we did was that we became friends with Mr. Hoffman,” Wachter recalled.
In accepting the Cop of the Year honors, Bell said he was overwhelmed by the turnout and outpouring of gratitude. He thanked his wife, Monique, his family and the community as a whole for their support and understanding through the years.
“I know I’m blessed because I know what it’s like to work in a community where it’s difficult. Not all of the officers in the department don’t have the luxury or the opportunity to work in a community that supports their cops,” Bell said. “This community shows the officers so much love. But it’s not about me, it’s about the guys (104th Precinct officers) behind me. These are the guys I call when I have an issue.”