By Daniel Massey
In a recent drug bust outside a Chinese restaurant in Forest Hills, Capt. Charles Stravalle, the new boss at the 112th Precinct, showed off what he expects will be two trademarks of his captaincy: focus on small crimes and hands-on police work.
Stravalle and his partner, Sgt. John Dempster, arrested a man for smoking marijuana out of a pipe in front of Tung Shing House at 97-45 Queens Blvd. It turned out the suspect was dealing drugs. In a subsequent search, Stravalle found four tablets of ecstasy, 14 bags of marijuana and a large quantity of cash on the man.
The suspect was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance with an intent to sell. Busting a man for the smaller crime of smoking marijuana netted a larger arrest for dealing drugs, Stravalle said.
The arrest was an introduction of sorts to what Forest Hills and Rego Park residents can expect of the new boss of the 112th Precinct, who took over from Capt. John Essig Dec. 3.
“I can’t do my job inside the precinct if I don’t know what’s going on outside,” Stravalle said. He added that he is a proponent of the “broken window” theory of policing that came to prominence under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. “If you take away the little things, big things take care of themselves,” he said.
Stravalle is no stranger to walking the beat. He started as a housing officer in 1985 before joining the NYPD a year later. The Middle Village native said he “learned early on in his career to do things through enforcement.”
While patrolling the streets of the 34th Precinct in Washington Heights in the mid-1980s, he began issuing tickets to jaywalkers long before Giuliani rose to power.
“I gave out 100 summonses a month,” he said. “I was way ahead of the time.”
Stravalle said he was always an active cop, making 10 to 15 arrests a month in his first few years on the job.
His record led to a promotion to anti-crime assignments in the Manhattan North Narcotics Division, where among other responsibilities, he made undercover drug buys.
Stravalle has served in a variety of positions within the NYPD, including posts in Queens at the 103rd Precinct in South Jamaica and the 106th Precinct in Ozone Park. He worked for Internal Affairs, the Organized Crime Control Bureau and for the Police Foundation, a national police think-tank based in Washington, D.C.
Stravalle comes to the 112th Precinct from the Applicant Processing Division, where he supervised pre-employment screening investigations for potential NYPD hires.
Throughout 17 years as a police officer, Stravalle, who left St. John’s University after two years to join the force, found time to keep a promise he made to his parents to return to school.
And he fulfilled the promise three times over. Stravalle received a bachelor’s degree in Police Science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1991, a master’s of arts in Criminal Justice from the school in 1995 and a master’s in Human Resources Management and Urban Planning fro the New School in 1998.
In 1995, Stravalle took a brief leave of absence from the force to become a certified polygraph examiner. At the time, he was the only such licensed official in the city and his services were used by detective squads around the city.
Stravalle, who graduated from Archbishop Malloy High School, is not a newcomer to the Forest Hills area. He served in the 112th Precinct’s auxiliary force from 1983-1985 and spent time as an EMT for the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps starting in 1990.
He said the criminals who plague Forest Hills and Rego Park are typically purse snatchers and pickpockets. He said his focus on “little things” such as public drunkenness and breaching of park curfews will help prevent the onset of bigger crimes.
If early figures are any indication, Stravalle has had a positive effect on the 112th Precinct community. Crime, he said, has dropped three weeks in a row since he took over as captain.
Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.