By Rich Bockmann
The 111th Precinct and members of the communities it serves got together last week at the Douglaston Plaza shopping center for the 28th annual National Night Out Against Crime. The event is designed to heighten crime-prevention awareness through strengthening police-community partnerships.
“Tonight’s all about the partnership between the community and the police, so they get to see a different side of us,” said Capt. Ron Leyson. “A lot of times the only interaction people have with us is during the worst time of their lives.”
The sun was still bright in the sky in the late afternoon hours of Aug. 2 as Officer Gary Poggiali grilled hamburgers and sausages and the Little Neck-Douglaston Lions Club served up hot dogs. A number of community groups and businesses donated their time and resources for the night, which was sponsored by the 111th Precinct Community Council.
“It’s all free, there’s absolutely no charge … everyone here is volunteering their time,” said Precinct Council President Jack Fried. “It’s a fun evening for everybody.”
The Police Department had a table set up where auto owners could sign up to have their vehicle identification number etched into their car windows, a table from St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital was handing out bicycle helmets and an inflatable castle gave youngsters the opportunity to bounce away whatever energy that had not been sapped by the hot summer sun.
Chris Smith said he and his 8-year old son Michael had been at the Movieworld theater the Friday before to see “Captain America” when they learned about the Night Out.
“It’s great; there’s a lot of stuff,” said the Floral Park dad, who returned last week with Michael and his 12-year-old daughter Elena. “We said hello to a couple of police officers.”
The night also served as an opportunity for officers from the precinct to connect with community members they normally would not meet and to make them aware of issues not on the front of everyone’s minds.
“We’re making the public aware that every precinct has a domestic violence unit,” said Officer Anja Albanesi. She and Officer Kyle Ferguson were on hand to inform those who came out about the precinct’s 24-hour domestic violence unit, which takes incident reports and appears at family court for a variety of cases.
“There are all different types of domestic violence, such as elderly abuse and those with Alzheimer’s, which fall under the realm of domestic violence,” Albanesi said.
State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) also attended the event, and said everybody benefits when the NYPD and the community work together.
“I think the police will tell you that a strong relation with the community is essential to fighting crime,” he said. “The cops can’t be everywhere. They rely on ordinary citizens to let them know what is going on and where.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.