BY JORDAN GIBBONS
As the discussion surrounding community policing continues, some small anecdotes of the NYPD practicing better relations with residents can start to bridge the gap in minority communities.
At the Press of Southeast Queens’ Black History Month awards breakfast at Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral Tuesday morning, Kevin Livingston, founder of 100 Suits for 100 Men, shared a story during the panel discussion about when Patrol Borough South Assistant Chief David Barrere visited Community Board 12’s monthly meeting a week into his job.
Livingston said he brought a woman whose son was treated inappropriately by an officer to the meeting and Barrere welcomed her and offered to drive her to the precinct to file a complaint.
The panel featured a combination of community representatives and City agency heads to discuss better relations between communities and City agencies.
Press Contributing Editor Marcia Moxam Comrie moderated the panel with Livingston, Barrere, Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence Commissioner Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, Community Board 12 Chairperson Adrienne Adams and MetroPlus Health’s Deputy Executive Director of Marketing Roger Milliner.
The panel touched on topics such as community policing, domestic violence, illegal dumping and school co-locations.
Barrere said it is clear that the community needs to work together with the NYPD to help the police force interact more efficiently with residents, and events such as the awards breakfast and community council meetings will help achieve that goal.
“We have some re-engineering plans that are going to be moving forward to work with the community more cohesively,” he said.
He added that the precincts in Southern Queens attempt to connect with minority communities through events and community affairs officers focused on working with children in the neighborhoods and community meetings they attend.
Livingston said the biggest need to help youth in the community is transparency with the NYPD. He added that Downtown Jamaica is one of the areas in the City that has a lot of impact officers who are not familiar with the community.
He said that there are a lot of people coming home from prison as well as halfway houses with residents who see a barrier between themselves and the police.
Livingston made sure to credit a number of officers in the 103rd and 113th precincts who did a good job of working with the community in a variety of ways such as donating clothing to 100 Suits to give to young people trying to turn their lives around.
“That’s something I can say because I’m in Downtown Jamaica every day and I work with them,” he said. “Of course there are bad apples, but we have to start with policing our own community before we start policing them.”
Comrie asked Livingston if he had any suggestions on how the community can start to get young people headed in the right direction.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Each one of you guys out there, mentor one.”
Pierre-Louis said that the City operates family justice centers in each Borough, which provides wraparound services for victims of domestic violence under one roof, as well as working closely with the District Attorney’s office co-located in justice centers and working with the NYPD.
“The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence and a number of City agencies are on the ground each and every day to ensure that we are strengthening the safety net for victims of domestic violence,” she said.
Pierre-Louis pointed out that NYPD filed 282,000 domestic incident reports last year.
She added that some of the barriers for victims coming forward are not knowing the resources available to them, fears stemming from undocumented residents not wanting to be exposed and also the fear in communities of color that do not want to engage with the various systems that can provide assistance.
“One of the things that the Mayor has encouraged us to do as City agencies is to get out into the community and to work collaboratively… to really go out into communities like in Southeast Queens, where we know there are number of domestic violence cases happening to ensure that every victim knows the City of New York is here to help and they should not be afraid,” she said.
Community Board 12 Issues
Adrienne Adams said there are several issues impacting the community district, such as illegal dumping, more surveillance cameras in problematic areas, illegal commuter vans and more residents need to educate their neighbors.
“We have to make sure our neighbors are aware of how sanitation is handled in our communities,” Adams said. “We have to make sure we educate each other; that we care enough about our neighborhood to educate each other on this issue.”
Adams also said there are serious safety issues with the commuter vans known as “dollar vans.” She said there is an enforcement issue with more illegal vans filing into Downtown Jamaica on a daily basis.
“We don’t see them ticketed the way that you and I get ticketed,” she said. “The enforcement has to be very consistent. We notice that certain times of the day, the issue is worse than at other times of day.”
In addition, Adams said she would like to see the Mayor deliver on his promise to eliminate co-locations in schools.
“A lot of us are of the mind of one building, one school, one administration, one principal,” she said. “I personally would like to see that go back to the old time way. We have high schools that are co-locating with six schools within one building. That is unheard of in my world.”
Adams summed up the needs of Community Board 12 as sanitation, transportation and education.
“We need to reverse the harm that the Bloomberg administration has done to devastate education in New York City,” Adams said.
Livingston added another issue that needs to be addressed in Southeast Queens is people suffering from mental health.
He said there are people who are released from prison where they received medication, but are not keeping up with it when they are released. He mentioned a young woman who threw a tantrum at his office because she did not want to go to an internship.
“This is what we have to deal,” he said. “This was all because she did not want to take her medication. I would like to see the Mayor put more funds into that in Southeast Queens.”
Reach Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400, Ext. 123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jgibbons2.