It’s All About the Community

Police Initiatives Detailed At 108th Pct. Council

The head of the NYPD’s Community Affairs bureau stopped by the 108th Precinct Community Council’s Tuesday, Jan. 31 meeting at Sunnyside Community Services to let residents know how the agency reaches out to the community.

NYPD Community Affairs Chief Philip Banks III (at left in photo at top right) 108th Precinct Community Council President Diane Ballek (second from left) and Capt. Donald Powers (at right) presented P.O. Rauly Espinal (holding plaque in top photo), P.O. Bryan Ritto (second from left in photo at bottom right) and P.O. Joel Edwards (third from left in bottom photo) with Cop of the Month awards at the Council’s Jan. 31 meeting in Sunnyside.

Chief Philip Banks III introduced himself to the crowd by stating that his group helps the police use “our number-one strength, which is you.”

As part of a restructuring of the bureau, it will be split into three divisions- School Safety, which oversees officers in city schools; Community Affairs, which oversees outreach (including Community Councils) and crime prevention; and the newly-created Juvenile Justice division, which focuses on identifying who Banks referred to as “kids at risk.”

“The city is not the way it used to be 30 or 40 years ago,” Det. Thomas Verni said. “Even this area here has made a dramatic turnaround.”

(photos: Sam Goldman)

Verni, a 20-year veteran of the force, elaborated further on the Community Affairs division, which looks to “foster a productive relationship” that helps to continue the drop in crime.

On average, the division has per- sonnel in all 76 police precincts and all nine Housing Police Service Areas.

It also oversees Auxiliary Police Programs, Civilian Observation Patrols, the NYPD’s Ride-Along program (where residents can tag along on patrol with officers), the Citizens Police Academy, precinct Community Councils, and police-clergy relations (Verni noted that religious institutions can offer a safe, welcoming place for victims to talk).

It also participates in numerous charity endeavors (such as Toys for Tots and City Harvest) and runs the NYPD Museum in Lower Manhattan.

The division also holds numerous outreach efforts such as National Night Out Against Crime events, Harmony Day picnics, and conferences with religious leaders during the Jewish High Holy Days and the Islamic holiday of Ramadan to discuss possible safety situations.

Verni also stated that the NYPD also has focused efforts in recent years on outreach to immigrant communities as well as to the LGBT community.

Verti also touched on the Juvenile Justice division, which includes the Youth Police Academy, the Youth Explorers, the Summer Youth Employment Program and the largest Police Athletic League in the country.

The NYPD runs these programs, Verni stated, “so they don’t see police as the enemy.”

Finally, he urged residents to visit the NYPD’s website, which contains information on upcoming precinct events, community council meetings and news alerts. The NYPD also operated an email newsletter, for which residents can sign up on the site.

One resident asked Banks if parent should monitor their child’s social media interaction. Banks stated in the affirmative, stating that teens use Facebook and other social media to organize or share information about a planned violent encounter.

“I think you should cross the line with your kids,” he stated.

Diane Ballek, president of the 108th Precinct Community Council, also agreed that parents should monitor their child’s online friendships: “Show me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”

Cops of the Month

The precinct gave out Cop of the Month awards for December 2011 and for January.

The December award went to P.O. Rauly Espinal, for his Dec. 26, 2011 arrest of a man found with marijuana and two guns in his van after it was seen driving erratically and with a cracked windshield.

The January awards went to P.O. Bryan Ritto and P.O. Joel Edwards for their work in investigating an illegally parked vehicle near a Sunnyside pharmacy. Their investigation led to a couple who had stolen a prescription pad from a doctor’s office and was using it to illegally obtain Oxycontin from a Sunnyside pharmacy.

The arrest led to the capture of eight more individuals as part of a Bronx-based prescription drug ring.

“We’re well aware of the violence that comes with Oxy,” Powers told the crowd.

For their efforts, all officers received Cop of the Month plaques courtesy of the Times Newsweekly.

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