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New 108th Precinct commanding officer wants to ‘harden’ community against crimes

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

The new top cop at the 108th Precinct wants to enlist the public in the battle against crime as he steps into a new job he said he feels lucky to have landed.

Captain John Travaglia was named commanding officer of the precinct, covering Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Maspeth, on Nov. 17, replacing Captain Brian Hennessy, who was assigned commanding officer of the 115th Precinct.

“We don’t choose where we work in the NYPD, they tell us where we work and my lottery numbers came out. I hit the lottery to be in Long Island City,” Travaglia said. “[Hennessy] left me running with a well-oiled machine.”

Just a few weeks into his new assignment, Travaglia was able to present good news during the Dec. 4 Community Board 2 monthly meeting, when he reported that crime in the precinct had dropped significantly over the previous 28 days.

Robberies were down 8 percent, felony assaults down 9 percent, burglaries down 6 percent, grand larceny down 15 percent, and reports of stolen cars were down 50 percent, according to Travaglia.

In his new position, the 22-year NYPD veteran plans to continue what Hennessy accomplished at the precinct, such as Community Friday, which involves taking time to focus especially hard on quality-of-life issues in the precinct.

Using his experience from a previous assignment at NYPD Highway Patrol, Travaglia also said he wants to do more traffic enforcement, since an important issue in the precinct includes high-volume thoroughfares that carry thousands of commuters to and from work. He plans to emphasize enforcement of Vison Zero — a program championed by Mayor de Blasio to reduce traffic deaths — and also create a enhanced effort to crack down on drunken driving.

“There is nothing more important than getting a drunk driver off the road. I can equate it to taking a loaded illegal firearm off the street,” Travaglia said. “If we can somehow prevent a person from being injured, if not killed, that’s just as good as saving someone from a violent demise due to a crime.”

In regards to crime in the neighborhoods, Travaglia said he sees the same types of crimes that he did in his previous posts at the 114th and 104th precincts, such as property-based burglaries, car theft, and grand larceny.

In order to keep the number of such crimes down, Travaglia said he would like to educate residents on how they can help “harden the target” and lessen their chances of becoming crime victims. For example, residents making sure their windows and doors are tightly locked, making sure valuables aren’t left in cars and being more vigilant of their personal property and information.

“It’s not at all to make people feel like the police aren’t here to prevent this. We are here, [but] we cannot be everywhere. I wish we could stop all the bad people from doing this, but we cannot be everywhere,” Travaglia said. “It really is the community being the eyes and ears for the police department. We need people to call. If something looks out of place, we need to know about it.”

Travaglia said he wants to hear from the community, and that includes concerns about problems.

“I welcome complaints, I welcome compliments. I want people to attend community meetings,” he said. “We need to know what the problems are. If someone sees a problem, we need it to be reported. We cannot work a solution if we don’t know what the problem is.”

The next 108th Community Council Meeting is scheduled for Jan. 27, 2015, at Sunnyside Community Services.

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