By Stephen Witt
Local residents may not know it, but the 60th Precinct’s anti-crime plainclothes unit is in the community day and night attacking violent crimes at the street level. And two cops from the unit — Sgt Anthony Guadagno and Officer Richard Vargas – were honored last week as the precinct’s “Cops of the Month” for their arrest of a perpetrator allegedly responsible for about half of the precinct’s recent shootings. “We don’t do investigations. We basically try to blend in with the public and pick up people attempting or are in the midst of trying to commit a violent crime,” explained Guadagno. The incident that led to the award began at about 8:30 p.m., Dec. 19 when the crime-fighting duo reacted to a radio call and description of shots fired in the vicinity of the Marlboro public housing complex, 2740 86th Street. “Basically, the perpetrator was known to us and was responsible for roughly half of the shootings in the last six months in this precinct,” said Guadagno. “We were familiar with his face, so once we heard the job come over the radio we had an idea who we were looking for and we just canvassed the area.” After some time, Guadagno and Vargas spotted the perpetrator at one of the stores in the area of 86th and West 8th streets, where they made the arrest without incident. A loaded .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun was recovered at the scene. Police said the alleged perpetrator was previously arrested for shootings, but none of the charges would stick because of uncooperative complainants. However, in the most recent bust, cops are confident they have a strong case against the alleged shooter. Police cited the Marlboro houses as one of the hot spots in the precinct and did not rule out the shooting to be gang-related. There is a substantial gang activity in the precinct, but it doesn’t seem to have any fluctuation to a different level over the past few years, officials said. Guadagno, a nine-year NYPD veteran from Staten Island, said he loves what he does. “I like the fact that I don’t go to an office every day. I get to come to meet new challenges every day and it’s just very interesting,” said Guadagno. “I love to help people and the satisfaction of helping someone during tough times, because most of the time when people call us it’s an act of desperation,” he added. As the head of the 60th Precinct’s anti-crime unit, Guadagno said he looks for officers that are highly motivated and well rounded to join the unit. This includes individuals who know how to utilize precinct resources such as computer databases so they can do research on their own to find out what perpetrators have been arrested previously to break up crime patterns. Such is the case of Vargas, a seven-year veteran from the Bronx. “I was originally a postal police officer and being a police officer is something I wanted to do,” said Vargas. “My family lives in Puerto Rica and I have a couple of uncles and cousins who are police officers there, so it’s something in the family.” Deputy Inspector Robert Johnsen, commanding officer of the 60th Precinct, said Guadagno and Vargas did a great job of tracking down and removing the gun from the perpetrator. “He [perpetrator] was a recidivist and had a couple of prior gun charges already against him. So the guy was an absolute villain and if we didn’t remove him we’d probably have another tragedy in the city,” said Johnsen. Johnsen said gun collars were up slightly in 2007 with 38 arrests. In the same period, shootings were down in the precinct with 15 in 2007 as compared to 19 in 2006.