By Gina Martinez
Police Commissioner James O’Neill addressed terrorism, the rise in opioid addiction and quality-of-life offenses at Tuesday’s 104th Precinct Community Council meeting in Glendale.
O’Neill was the special guest at the precinct’s monthly meeting held at Sacred Heart Church.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Maspeth) introduced the commissioner, crediting him for the drop in crime and great work overall since he took the job last September.
“Public safety and quality-of-life issues are so important to us and we are proud of the 104th Precinct for making Glendale a safe place to raise children and running businesses,” she said. “O’Neill has played such an instrumental part in making our city the safest big city in the country.
“Unlike other commissioners before him, O’Neill has worn the uniform for 33 years and risen through the ranks. Days into his leadership, the commissioner responded to an emergency in Chelsea. It’s an unfortunate reality in today’s world, but terrorism is something we have to consider. The NYPD under the watch of O’Neill employs countless antiterrorism officers and tactics to keep us safe.”
O’Neill started off by talking about public safety. He said the biggest issue that “keeps him up at night” is terrorism. According to O’Neill, the NYPD has a great relationship with the FBI and has detectives in 14 major cities across the world to get real-time information on incidents, such as the recent attacks in London and Brussels. He said community participation is instrumental to preventing attacks.
“You have a responsibility to take affirmative steps to do whatever you can,” O’Neill said. “If you see something off, you have to pitch in and let us know. Pay attention to what is going on in the city, that’s how we stay safe.”
One resident asked O’Neill about the rise in opioid addiction and what the NYPD is doing to tackle it.
The commissioner said there are detectives dedicated to investigating where the drugs are coming from. He said the NYPD is not looking to lock up addicts or small level dealers, but targeting dealers higher up the food chain. He said the mayor has hired additional officers in the drug enforcement task force to conduct international and regional investigations to find the source of where the drugs are coming from.
A resident asked about the mayor’s “de-emphasizing” of quality-of-life issues by lessening penalties for these crimes. O’Neill said even though offenders may not be punished as harshly, the NYPD will still enforce the laws.
“With neighborhood policing, quality of life is addressed,” he said. “But it doesn’t always have to be addressed with an arrest. It’s important to make a distinction with who is involved in bigger crimes and who is not, so depending on the issue we ask cops to use discretion.”
O’Neill said simple crimes like loitering or public drinking don’t always have to lead to arrest, adding that he trusts his officers to be able to make the distinction on what warrants serious enforcement.
“If we want to work with the community, we have to make sure our officers know that we back them to make decisions. Enforcement is not going away.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart