By Kathianne Boniello
“I was looking for a different challenge,” Fitzgerald said of his decision to take over command of a precinct after years in several narcotics squads around the city, including Queens Patrol Borough South. “I was looking for a different way to go. The precincts are the backbone of the Police Department.”
Fitzgerald's sudden appointment as commanding officer of the 111th Precinct, which includes Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Oakland Gardens, and parts of Auburndale and Flushing, followed the equally abrupt promotion of the man he followed: Capt. Anthony Mullen.
“It's a tough act to follow,” Fitzgerald, a 16-year veteran of the New York Police Department, said during his second night on the job Dec. 28 as the new head of the 111th Precinct.
Mullen, who was assigned to the 111th Precinct in late December 1999 after Capt. Anthony Lubrano retired, was promoted to the rank of deputy inspector at the 110th Precinct in Corona last month.
During his short tenure, Mullen successfully worked to reduce crime in the relatively peaceful 111th Precinct by tackling the area's largest problems: car theft and property crimes like burglaries.
Fitzgerald, who attained the rank of captain in 1997, began his law enforcement career in 1985 as part of the city's Housing police. Following the merger of the housing police and the NYPD, Fitzgerald worked in the narcotics squad at Manhattan Patrol Borough South before becoming the commanding officer of the narcotics division at Queens South.
At Queens South, which oversees all the southern Queens police precincts, Fitzgerald said he worked to reduce street level crime by targeting drug dealers and trying to find their suppliers.
“I've been in narcotics a large portion of my career,” the Long Island native said.
After two days on the job at the 111th Precinct, Fitzgerald said he already had a strong idea of the area's problems and strong points.
Acknowledging that there are few violent crimes in the area, Fitzgerald said he would zero in on auto theft, grand larceny and property crimes like robberies and burglaries to maintain the quality of life in the 111th Precinct.
A week into his new post several days later, the captain credited his staff at the 111th Precinct for giving him an easy transition into his new job at his first precinct community council meeting.
“This is my first opportunity to work in a precinct and deal with the community,” he said. “The officers here are great. Everything runs smoothly here.
“My door is always open,” he said.