From quality-of-life problems to opiate addictions, Police Commissioner James O’Neill ran the gamut of issues raised by residents during his visit to the 104th Precinct Community Council meeting on June 20 at Sacred Heart Catholic Academy in Glendale.
People from across the borough filled the school’s auditorium to get their chance to ask the city’s top cop what was on their mind.
Many residents were concerned with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signing of the Criminal Justice Reform Act — a package of eight bills that would lessen the penalties for minor offenses such as drinking in public and public urination — believing that cops were now instructed to basically look the other way when it comes to minor infractions.
O’Neill debunked that belief stating that officers are now told to use discretion when addressing these quality-of-life issues instead of automatically issuing criminal court summonses.
“The NYPD will never walk away from quality-of-life enforcement,” O’Neill assured those in attendance. “What we did was we have a civil enforcement option now. We still retain the right to issue a criminal court summons, but the civil enforcement … it’s a fine and we’ll extradite it and there will still be consequences so again, we are not walking away from that.”
One resident wanted to know what the police department could to do help organizations like the Police Athletic League (PAL) and others to help keep children off the streets and away from drugs, especially with the rapid rise of opiate addiction that has spread across the city.
O’Neill stated that the department works very closely with the PAL and has many of its own youth programs such as the Law Enforcement Explorers program and a youth summer camp to get young kids involved with the police force and away from drugs.
“We put overdose investigation teams in each and every borough now,” O’Neill said. “So now we have detectives dedicated anytime there is an overdose, fatal or nonfatal, being investigated by detectives to see where the drugs came from. And we’re not looking to lock up the people that are [overdosing] or the people that gave them that small amount; again, we are looking to go up the food chain.”
The NYPD, with the support of the mayor and the City Council, is hiring additional officers in order to move more people into the detective division to the Drug Enforcement Task Force, which works with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
The Commissioner also addressed how the police force is handling prostitution and human trafficking across the city, as well as the presence of gang members in Queens.