Queens South Commanding Officer Kevin Williams discussed local crime trends, including illegal marijuana sales, while setting a goal of reducing crime in 2023 during the 102nd Precinct’s first community council meeting of the year on Jan. 4 at the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center.
Joining Williams in addressing the community were Councilwoman Joann Ariola and 102nd Precinct Commanding Officer Captain Jeremy Kivlin.
Much of the conversation at the meeting consisted of discussing crime trends in the area throughout 2022, as well as attempting to answer questions and concerns about smoke shops selling marijuana without the proper licenses and doing so near certain areas, like schools or churches. Both the officers and Ariola also discussed some of their main goals for improving the community in 2023.
According to Williams, when he first took on the role after Memorial Day, he knew by then that there was no mathematical way crime would be reduced to a negative standpoint in 2022 compared to 2021. He stressed the importance of how officers needed to approach addressing crime as well as quality-of-life issues. One thing he prioritized doing that addressed both issues was the topic of gun violence.
“We ended the year with a 25% reduction in overall shootings here in Queens South,” Williams said. “I do think that’s a complement to the men and women of the New York City Police Department. They were laser focused on reducing gun violence. We all have our stories about the instances we’ve had over the last 18 to 24 months involving guns and how it really needed to be addressed by the New York City Police Department. That overarching strategy has been successful.”
Williams said the area had seen a 37% rise in overall crime when he took on the role of Queens South commanding officer. However, that number dropped significantly by the end of the year to just an 18% increase in overall crime. While it may not have been an overall decrease, he noted the area was trending in the right direction, especially toward the end of the year. He said that there was actually a 19% decrease in overall crime over the last four weeks of 2022.
“I am extremely confident that we are poised, primed and ready to have an overall reduction in crime this year in Queens South,” Williams said. “That is my mission and goal. We are going to address overall crime in 2023.”
He also noted the importance of tackling quality-of-life issues in Queens South. Examples he provided included the issues of overnight commercial truck parking or the issues surrounding some smoke shops in the area. It was also important to Williams to address these issues without having the police damage relationships with those in the community.
One other topic he’s working towards fixing is the issue of manpower for each precinct. While he wouldn’t say how many officers, he emphasized each command would receive a number of officers.
Ariola addressed the concerns posed by some in attendance in regards to some smoke shops in the area selling marijuana without the proper licenses. She said her office has been in constant communication with the 102nd Precinct about these smoke shops.
According to Ariola, the precinct is working with the Queens district attorney’s office in catching these stores illegally selling marijuana, making felony arrests. Ariola noted that kids also shouldn’t be able to just walk in these stores to buy marijuana in the same way they can’t buy cigarettes until they’re 21 years of age.
“What do we know, unregulated, what people are buying in a shop that doesn’t have a license to sell any type of licensed product?” Ariola asked. “[Some of these items] could be laced with fentanyl. That’s why it’s so important that [the police] are keeping such a tight hold on that.”
Ariola also discussed a legislation she submitted that would force smoke shops that are licensed to sell marijuana make sure the packaging of the product look vastly different from other products, as many are packaged to look like candy wrappers. Additionally, this legislative proposal calls for businesses licensed to sell marijuana to be at least 1,000 feet away from any place of worship, school, library or park. The proposal also calls for no more than two businesses licensed to make these sales in each community.
“That’s something I’m going to be pushing in the 2023 legislative session,” Ariola said. “Because I think it’s probably going to be one of the most important things. There’s nothing we could do more than keep our kids off drugs, safe from drugs and make sure that our police have the necessary tools that they need to make the arrests when they go in. I believe this will have bipartisan support because it’s common sense.”