BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO
Hiring more police officers and reducing homelessness were hot topics during the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association (RPOCA) meeting on June 4 at the Ridgewood Older Adult Center.
According to Captain Mark Wachter, the 104th Precinct has witnessed a 9.5 percent drop in the seven major crime categories. Problems plaguing the command include an upswing in identity theft, scams and theft of unattended property, such as wallets and laptop computers left in cars.
Even so, crime is up in other parts of the city, and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley noted the City Council wants funds to hire more police officers included in 2016 fiscal year budget.
According to Crowley, Commissioner Bratton approached the City Council and requested funds to hire 500 extra police officers, primarily for the city’s anti-terrorism task force. However, Crowley estimates the need for more officers to be double that amount.
“It’s rare that you even have a commissioner of an agency that disagrees with a mayor,” Crowley said. “But the truth of the matter is, he could use a thousand more police officers.”
Crowley estimates that the police department spends roughly $700 million dollars in overtime pay to officers each year. “If you add enough resources to pay people straight time…you would save a significant amount of money by not having to pay time and a half,” she added.
She proposed deploying the additional 500 officers Bratton requested to problem areas throughout the city, including troubled neighborhoods such as Brownsville and the South Bronx, which, according to her estimates, have witnessed a 40 percent uptick in major crimes within the past year.
Crowley also tackled the issue of homelessness and rent increases, a topic of particular concern to the growing Ridgewood community.
“Some people are charging outrageous amounts for rent and it’s driving a lot of families out. This is happening throughout the city,” she explained.
As a preventative measure, Crowley announced that she has allocated funds in the budget for the city’s LINK Program. This network of social services is designed to fight homelessness by keeping families out of shelters and helping them stay in their own homes.
In addition to vital resources, Crowley said that she had also allocated funds for local trees and park improvements, as well as other capital requests from Community Board 5. This news delighted former RPOCA president Paul Kerzner, who has been advocating for the planting of more trees throughout Ridgewood.
Kerzner estimates that roughly $300,000 would be required in the 2016 budget for tree planting in the community. Crowley explained that she had allocated that amount in the previous year’s budget for stump removal and the planting of 100 new trees.