BY LUIS GRONDA
A new patrol is coming to Howard Beach that will lend extra eyes to the neighborhood. Plans are underway to create the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol, a neighborhood watch program that aims to assist the police in its patrol.
The program is made up of civilians who volunteer their time to be an additional pair of eyes for the police. Although they are unarmed, members of the patrol are trained to watch for any suspicious activity and call it in to law enforcement if it is necessary. There are civilian patrols already in existence in other parts of Queens and the City, including the Glendale Civilian Observation Patrol.
Joseph Thompson, the head organizer of the Howard Beach COP, said he got the idea to start a civilian patrol due to an incident earlier this year when an elderly person was robbed of her personal property. Thompson said he could use his experience in the auxiliary police to organize the COP where he lives.
“Why wouldn’t I continue that in my community?” he said.
Thompson was heavily involved in auxiliary police at his former home in Brooklyn before moving to Howard Beach about 18 years ago.
According to Thompson, he was a member of the Midwood Civic Action Council, before becoming an auxiliary police officer in the 70th Precinct for one year. Thompson later joined the rescue squad on the NYPD auxiliary emergency service team and was also a paramedic.
He said his patrol officers will be equipped with radios and trained by the NYPD to watch for any incident that might occur.
Thompson said their main priority would be to help the 106th Precinct, which serves Howard Beach and Lindenwood as part of its patrol.
“There is definitely a need for an extra pair of eyes to help the police,” he said.
Thompson said they intend on focusing on lesser crimes, like graffiti, to allow the 106th Precinct to concentrate on more urgent crimes like a burglary–in-progress.
“It will renew our quality of life the way it used to be,” he said.
Deputy Inspector Jeffery Schiff, who runs the 106th, said he always tells people at public meetings to let them know if they see any suspicious activity and this is just an extension of that.
“We want the community involved and working with the police,” Schiff said.
More work must be done before they are officially up and running, Thompson said.
They just got their 501C3 application approved, which means they are officially recognized as a non-profit organization and can accept donations from the public and other organizations.
The COP must find 40 people committed to becoming a member, as per NYPD requirements, and receive the necessary training at NYPD headquarters in Manhattan.
Thompson said they have about 15 members so far and they anticipate reaching that requirement soon. He said they will begin doing some patrols soon and they intend to be fully running by August.
You can find the Howard Beach COP on Facebook at facebook.com/hb.cop or on Twitter @HowardBeachCOP.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, email@example.com, or @luisgronda.