By Kathianne Boniello
Police Capt. Julio Ordonez barely had time to enjoy his early days as new commanding officer of the Bayside-based 111th Police Precinct when the city was rocked by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Appointed to the northeast Queens precinct on Aug. 27, the easy-going Ordonez had two weeks to settle in before he and his staff — like the rest of the city’s Police Department — went on high alert after the destruction of the Twin Towers, working 12-hour shifts and taking turns providing security at Ground Zero.
“It just seemed like it was one very long, continuous day,” said Ordonez, who commended the 111th police officers for their recent extra effort.
The most startling change since Sept. 11 has been the restricted access around the 111th Precinct, which is at the intersection of Northern Boulevard and 215th Street. Due to stricter citywide security measures, the entire sidewalk around the 111th has been blocked off, the exits have been monitored 24 hours a day by officers and the street in front of the precinct has been closed.
Ordonez said the security restrictions would be in place for the foreseeable future.
“I understand Sept. 11 is going to change the destiny of the city and the country as a whole, but nevertheless we still have to provide the services” to the community, he said.
Since Sept. 11 the walls of the precinct have been covered in thank you notes from schoolchildren, handmade American flags created from construction paper and children’s drawings, all expressing gratitude for the work of the police.
“On behalf of everyone here, I have to say thank you — especially for the prayers,” said Ordonez, a military veteran who also voiced appreciation for the wave of patriotism that has swept the nation. “The kids have been wonderful.”
Although Ordonez is the third new commanding officer at the 111th since December 1999, he is no stranger to the precinct.
A native of Queens who grew up in Jackson Heights, Ordonez served as the precinct’s executive officer, or second in command, from 1998 to 1999 before being transferred to the 110th Precinct in Elmhurst. He also worked in the 109th Precinct in Flushing and the 114th in Astoria. He was transferred again to the 111th Precinct in August from the 110th.
Crime has continued to drop in the relatively peaceful 111th Precinct, which includes the communities of Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Oakland Gardens, Hollis Hills and parts of Auburndale and Flushing.
While the biggest crime problem in the 111th Precinct continues to be car thefts, Ordonez said the public needs to be aware of “crimes of opportunity” that spring up in the area especially around the holidays.
“A car full of gifts, a purse or a laptop” left unattended can invite trouble, he said. The captain also urged residents who witness suspicious behavior in the area to notify the precinct.
“A lot of times people say they don’t want to bother us,” Ordonez said. “Trust me, bother us. I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.