Whitestone group to go on the watch to help cops fight crime

Detective Kevin O'Donnell instructs Whitestone residents in the neighborhood's first block watch class in March 2015.
Photo courtesy of We Love Whitestone

A Whitestone civic group is fighting back against recent crime by empowering residents in a community block watch initiative.

With neighborhood anxieties running high after a recent attack on a local teen girl, the We Love Whitestone civic group is putting on an NYPD Block Watcher training class to equip residents on how to help police in the event of an emergency situation.

We Love Whitestone board member Luigi Cirigliano organized the class with the 109th Precinct Community Affairs office along with Alfredo Centola, the civic group’s president.

“We want to give the community a chance to help the 109,” Cirigliano said. “If they see something, say something and do the right thing.”

The event will take place on Jan. 30. It is free of charge and open to all Whitestone residents; the Whitestone Volunteer Ambulance Corps has volunteered the use of its headquarters at 12-15 150th St. for the class.

At the class, residents will learn how to effectively communicate observed details with the police and other city agents in the event of an emergency situation — such as a crime investigation — or a quality-of-life issue. Tips include how to make note of the sneakers a suspect was last seen wearing, instead of a shirt which could be more easily changed.

Centola said the classes were a resource that the community needed to stay aware of their surroundings. The We Love Whitestone civic group has also partnered with Councilman Paul Vallone’s office to host a self-defense class or women on Jan. 16 using Judo techniques to fend off possible attackers.

“I think there’s a need for that in every community, especially in the day and age we live in today,” Centola said.

This is the second block watcher certification class held by the civic group, with the first organized in March by We Love Whitestone Vice President George Mirtsopoulos after a number of robberies and tire thefts had been reported in the area.

“We felt that teaching community residents on how to identify possible perpetrators in the event they witnessed a crime would help police in apprehending them,” Mirtsopoulos said.

According to Mirtsopoulos, in the first class a total of 21 residents were trained by NYPD Community Affairs. Each person who takes a block watcher class receives a certification number valid for two years which is meant to be used during 911 or 311 calls.

Parties interested in participating in the We Love Whitestone-109th Precinct block watcher classes should email their contact information to the civic group at welovewhitestone@gmail.com.

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