BY BENJAMIN MANDILE
Ozone Park residents, law enforcement officials, political representatives and concerned community members crowded into the Deshi Senior Center in Ozone Park Thursday night to discuss the crime wave that they say has rocked the neighborhood and its surrounding communities for the past 18 months.
Beforehand, members of a community coalition met for an hour with Sam Esposito, the president of the Ozone Park Residents Block Association.
During that meeting, the 102nd and 106th police precincts agreed to put more sector cars in the area, Esposito said during the Feb. 13 general meeting with Ozone Park residents.
Assemblyman Mike Miller, who represents the 38th district, said he sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office asking for New York State Police to be allocated for the area. He also has reached out to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office to request for surveillance cameras to be installed in the area, he said.
Miller said de Blasio’s office has said the NYPD will “step up” patrols in the area until the end of Sunday, Feb. 16.
The Feb. 13 meeting was organized after a brutal beat down and robbery of a Bengali man on Sunday, Feb. 9, in broad daylight at 77th Street and Glenmore Avenue in Ozone Park.
The man is still in the hospital in serious condition, according to a source familiar with the incident.
Despite the victim being of Bengali-decent and many previous victims being of Bengali-decent, Esposito said he does not believe the Bengali community is being targeted specifically. Rather, he believes the entire Ozone Park community is under attack.
Assemblywoman Stacey Amato Pheffer said that the community has to take actions to protect themselves, which starts with sharing information and building trust.
Iqbal Ali, president of the Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol (COPCP), said that some residents do not come forward because of the language barrier between themselves and police, which Ali said is something that must improve.
Another reason incidents are not reported is fear. Some residents who may not be in the country legally or with proper legal documentation fear arrest and deportation, according to Misba Abdin, president of the Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services.
Despite New York being a sanctuary city, residents say they fear immigration officials after recent incidents of Immigration Customs and Enforcement officers interacting with people in the city.
Bangladeshi American Community Development & Youth Service (BACDYS) helps people find resources in the community for a wide range of issues from becoming a part of the workforce, gaining housing and learning the English language, Abdin said.
COPCP could be one solution to mitigating the crime in the Ozone Park community, its members say.
COPCP is not an arm of law enforcement, but is a volunteer-based group focused on being the eyes and ears of the NYPD, according to a COPCP legal representative.
“We’re here for the community,” Ali said.