Precinct volunteers join grafitti fight – QNS.com

Precinct volunteers join grafitti fight

For all of his life, Holy Cross freshman Alex Maroutsis, 14, has wanted to become a police officer. With his appointment to captain of the 111th Precinct Explorers, a volunteer youth police group, Maroutsis gets to wear a badge and practice police procedures with real officers.
The Explorers practice police techniques ranging from marching to handling incidents like burglaries, domestic disputes and traffic stops; competing with similar groups across the city. They also perform civic services – like cleaning graffiti.
The Precinct picks up the tab for providing graffiti cleanup materials for the industrious 40 member group. However they don’t pay for the uniforms, which cost between $65 and $100, and are required for Explorers who plan on competing in the city-wide competition in May.
Officer Raul Espinet, co-supervisor of the group, who spent 20 years in the military, is seeking public funding so the volunteers won’t have to buy their own uniforms and to enable to group to take on more community projects.
“To me uniform is everything. When you look like a unit, you look great,” he said.
Espinet has started teaching members how to march and fall in line, but by May he said the group will be trained to handle several kinds of incidents that require police involvement.
“It’s a good program for the kids,” said Police Officer Kristen Loughran, who serves as the group’s second supervisor. “It keeps them out of trouble.”
In her two years with the group, Loughran said she has supervised about 100 graffiti cleanups in the 111th Precinct in Bayside.
While the Explorers are working to clean up several graffiti sites in the area, Officer Elizabeth Fortunato, graffiti coordinator for the 111th Precinct said business and home owners should clean up graffiti immediately.
Residents and business owners can protect themselves by installing surveillance on their property – like motion-sensor lights and cameras.
Fortunato said that if a neighborhood resident spots someone vandalizing Bayside property they can get up to a $500 reward if a suspect is convicted of the crime.
“We’ve definitely focused our attention on it,” said Lieutenant Daniel Heffernan, the Special Operations Lieutenant in the 111th Precinct. So far with community call-ins and increased police patrols, the precinct made 47 arrests last year, up from 23 the year before, and they hope to top that total this year.
If you spot someone committing graffiti in the Bayside area, police advise you to call 3-1-1, and if you are interested in the 111th Precinct Explorers, call 718-279-5216.

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