By Courtney Dentch
Focusing on eight key issues, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told the 103rd Precinct Community Council Tuesday night that although crime is down in the precinct and the borough, there is still a ways to go.
Kelly, the first police commissioner in the city’s history to visit the 103rd Precinct, named problems such as racial profiling, quality-of-life crimes, and recruitment among his top priorities.
Nearly 300 Jamaica residents came out to greet the commissioner, a show of appreciation for Kelly after the precinct was spurned by his predecessor, Bernard Kerik. Kerik was a no show when he agreed to attend a community council meeting during his tenure as police commissioner and never rescheduled, angering the community even further, said Donna Clopton, president of the precinct’s community council.
“Just the fact that he showed up tonight shows that he cares about Jamaica,” Clopton said as she introduced Kelly.
Kelly praised the 103rd Precinct for helping to lower crime in southeast Queens by nearly 70 percent in the last decade.
“We need to continue to suppress crime,” he said. “It is our core mission.”
Aside from that mission, Kelly is committed to ending racial profiling in the department, he said. Although he said it has never been police policy to profile people based on race, he is working to clearly and firmly eliminate that practice.
“We want to take the issue head-on and codify the department’s policy,” Kelly said. “It’s never been our policy to stop someone solely because of their race.”
To ensure that, the department will use Compstat, the accountability program it uses to report crime statistics, to monitor ‘stop and frisk’ figures, Kelly said.
Another problem, Kelly said, is that the precinct as well as the department need more officers. In the 103rd, for example, there are three fewer officers than in 1991 even though the department gained 12,000 officers over the same time.
Kelly is reviewing the staffing inequalities, he said, and plans to use the cadets graduating this month to address the problem as well as placing civilians in precinct office jobs, which will free up about 800 officers for patrol duty, he said.
Retaining officers is also a problem, Kelly said. The department is facing big losses as officers from the hiring push in the early 1980s prepare to retire after serving 20 years, he said.
“We’re concerned about a brain drain, you might say,” Kelly said. “We’re losing expertise.”
The NYPD is also focusing on recruitment, Kelly said, targeting colleges with information drives.
“I think, quite frankly, we’ve been selling the department short,” he said. “This is a great job and we want the best people to come in.”
Kelly also said he plans to focus on drug sales and possession crimes since they often lead to other crimes.
“Most of the serious crimes are related to narcotics,” he said. “It’s still, in the grand scheme of things, the No. 1 issue.”
The community council also lauded the work of two police officers at the meeting. Deputy Inspector Robert Thursland, commanding officer of the 103rd Precinct, named Chris Baumeister and Tom McQueeney Officers of the Month for arresting a burglar in the act. The suspect had 17 prior arrests, Thursland said. Ten were for burglary, six of which were in the 103rd Precinct, he said.
“These guys are out on the street night after night doing their jobs,” Thursland said.
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.