BY LYNN EDMONDS
Community policing is coming to the 109th Precinct, with an expected start date in April.
So far, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Bill Bratton’s community policing program has been rolled out in 20 precincts citywide, including three in Queens. It was piloted in two precincts in the Far Rockaways, the 100th and the 101st, as well as in Washington Heights, before the City decided to go forward with the program in a big way in June, most notably in South Jamaica.
The explicit goal of the program is to build up trust in the police in communities where it is lacking.
“We must win back community support and build productive partnerships with citizens, especially in communities of color, where resentment and fear of old police practices are most prevalent,” a message from Bratton says on a website dedicated to the new community policing program.
According to police data, class and race have something to do with who trusts them.
“White, more wealthy neighborhoods feel better about police performance,” their website says.
The community policing program is supposed to address that disparity by having cops form relationships with a specific neighborhood and its residents, business owners, religious leaders, and other figures. Neighborhood Coordinating Officers, or NCOs, are allotted 30 percent of their hours to simply patrol, network and outreach with the community rather than respond to 911 calls.
But unlike the Far Rockaways, where the program was piloted, much of the 109th Precinct, which covers Flushing, Whitestone, Bay Terrace and College Point, didn’t seem to have a problem with trusting the police – something that Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said happily at the community council meeting on Feb. 10.
“We have always stood with our first responders…and that’s another reason we’re so different and so amazing. There is nothing. They don’t have to prove anything to us. We’ve got their back, they have ours,” he said.
Vallone advocated for the program to come to the 109th Precinct because the neighborhoods he represented in the precinct, including College Point, Bay Terrace and Whitestone, just wanted more cops.
“You always ask me to do what? Get more troops. Get more cops. Get more cars. Have more visibility,” Vallone said. “We know we have the greatest police department, but we want to see them more, beyond Flushing. When you have to take care of Main Street, and you have to take care of Flushing, the neighbors out here would love to see our officers a little more.”
Commanding Officer Thomas Conforti echoed the sentiment.
“Biggest complaint that I get is we don’t see police officers anymore walking the beat,” Conforti said. “If it’s a busy day, you don’t see that police car in a quiet area just driving patrol, because they’re too busy answering 911 calls.”
Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), who represents Flushing, was not in attendance at the meeting, but he said he favored the program.
“Community policing allows for these officers to build trusted relationships with the public, allowing for a more proactive approach to law enforcement,” Koo said.
Conforti estimated that under the new program 50-60 additional officers would be patrolling the 109th Precinct. Those officers would be assigned to specific beats throughout the entire precinct, which covers Flushing, Whitestone, College Point, Malba, Beechurst, Bay Terrace, Broadway-Flushing, Murray Hill, Kissena Park, Auburndale, and part of Fresh Meadows.
“The beat officer in that sense is coming back,” Conforti concluded.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana