Civic Members Train To Assist Local Police
Learning how to be extra sets of “eyes and ears” for local police was the focus of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting last Wednesday night, Feb. 20, as the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau provided instruction on the department’s Block Watchers program.
Deputy Inspector Amin Kosseim and P.O. Dion Harris of the bureau came to the session at the Woodhaven Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps to offer a course on the program before a capacity crowd of residents.
“It’s always doing more with less, and the police commissioner is always talking about getting the com- munity involved,” said Kosseim, who was particularly impressed by the turnout and interest expressed by WRBA members. “This is a huge showing,” he said, adding that the crowd was one of the largest he had seen at Block Watchers meetings held throughout the city to date.
The NYPD Block Watchers program recruits volunteers who undergo a three-hour preparation course on how to spot suspicious activity on their block and properly report it to police. Kosseim stated the department is relaunching the initiative since “the best people who know what’s going on in the communities are the people who live there, and that’s why we need your help.”
“You know when something is wrong on your block, on your corner, in your business or in your store, when someone doesn’t belong there,” he added. “We don’t want you to get involved. Just pick up the phone and let us know what’s going on. From there, we’ll take care of it.”
Harris then went over the details about the Block Watchers program and also aired an instructional video on spotting crime and relaying vital information to a 911 operator. The video depicted a car thief in the process of trying to enter several parked vehicles by grabbing the door handles, then using a device to break a side window.
After hearing the shattering glass, the video showed a woman identified as a block watcher peering out the window as the perpetrator searched the burglarized vehicle. The woman then contacted 911 and relayed a description of the suspect.
Block Watchers who commit to the program and complete training receive an official identification number from the NYPD. They then use this number when contacting 911 to provide information regarding suspicious activity in progress.
Enacting the Block Watchers program in Woodhaven was an idea that generated great interest among residents attending the WRBA’s January meeting. According to the civic group, over 50 individuals scattered throughout the neighborhood signed up to participate.
Beyond the Block Watchers program, Kosseim noted that he would eventually speak with Capt. Henry Sautner-commanding officer of the 102nd Precinct, which patrols Woodhaven- about establishing a civilian observation patrol in the years to come. “But this is a great start,” he added.
Sautner introduced himself to the WRBA before the Block Watchers presentation. Since taking the helm of the 102nd Precinct last fall, he stated, he has placed an emphasis on fighting quality-of-life problems in the area.
“If you take care of the small stuff, it prevents the big stuff from happening,” the captain said. He referred to the “broken window” theory of law enforcement: minor problems in a community, when left unaddressed, eventually bring major criminal elements into the area.
By working to preserve and improve the precinct’s quality of life, Sautner added, “it sets a tone and gives an appearance that we have some law and some order out here.”
‘Good Resident’ awards
Several students at St. Thomas the Apostle School were honored by WRBA President Ed Wendell with certificates for shoveling snow off the sidewalks in front of the homes of elderly and disabled residents following the Feb. 1-2 blizzard.
On hand to accept the certificates were Sofia Bauer, Sean Eggers and Amber Sanchez. Not present for the award ceremony were honorees Amanda Capasso, Madison Froelich, Ingrid Karmazinas and Alexandra Piotrowski.
The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association generally meets on the third Saturday each month at 1 p.m. at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, located at 78-15 Jamaica Ave. For more information, call 1-718-296-3735 or visit www.woodhaven-nyc.org.