By Mark Hallum
Residents within the 111th Precinct will now be able to text or email an officer assigned to their area after the full launch of the much-awaited Neighborhood Policing Program.
The initiative, which has seen success in other parts of the city, boosts the northeast Queens precinct’s staff by 11 officers assigned to four different sectors of the command to forge a better bond with the communities they take care of.
NYPD Assistant Chief Rodney Harrison and leaders from the 111th introduced the program and its officers to members of the community with a catered event at Queensborough Community College last week.
“We’ve had Neighborhood Policing since 2015,” Harrison said. “We have it in 63 precincts throughout the city, and murders are down 13 percent, shooting incidents are down 20 percent, crimes as a whole are down 5 percent. Ladies and gentleman, it is working.”
Officers in the program will have no set schedule, working on days that see the most demand for their assistance, Harrison told attendees at the meeting.
Neighborhood Coordination Officer Sgt. Joseph Saviano will be supervising the program and said the offices of the 111th have already undergone a series of changes to make the program more interoperable with other divisions that work within the precinct, including Community Affairs.
“When I first got promoted in 2011, I went to the Community Affairs guys and said ‘I wish there was a Community Affairs sergeant,’ because Community Affairs are always go-to guys,” Saviano said. “They know everybody in the community, they know what’s going on and they’re always there to go over and help out.”
Saviano said in the two weeks since the soft roll-out of the program, two NCOs were able to respond to an assault and arrested multiple individuals.
Many of the officers in the Neighborhood Policing Program were already with the 111th and were chosen by the precinct’s new commanding officer, Capt. John Hall, who helped develop the program during a stint at 1 Police Plaza.
“Anybody who’s watched the crime statistics knows that year after year crime is at historic lows and that next year you can push it down even further,” state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) said, turning his attention to Hall. “We also appreciate that you’re not just resting on your laurels, but continuing to innovate and coming up with new programs and trying to make things even safer.”
NCOs go through a special two-week criminal investigation course, followed by other specialized information-gathering and community outreach courses as well as a mediation course.
“This is a safe community… But we know as a community that the police can always be closer and we know that things can always be made better,” City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) said.
Harrison said the program was started as a means of mending fences with communities after negative policies such as “stop and frisk” as well as controversial incidents where deadly force had been employed had fractured the relationship between residents and peace officers.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall