“We’re treating that request seriously, and exploring how we can make it happen in the future.”
– Scott Siebert,
Councilman Peter Koo
BY LYNN EDMONDS
Auxiliary police officers in the 109th Precinct, which covers Flushing and Bay Terrace, said they did not have enough cars to get to their details, especially during the summer months when they are stationed at Flushing Meadows Corona Park and at the Fort Totten fireworks display.
The fireworks on July 1 was especially tough, with around 60 auxiliaries on duty that day, and only one vehicle slated for the auxiliary force.
“Do you know how many times we had to go back and forth to the precinct?” one officer, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “We had to borrow a friend’s van.”
Auxiliary police are local volunteers who aim to increase uniformed presence on the street, both for the sake of preventing crime and improving community-police relations. They typically work events such as carnivals, church processions, or the scene of an accident.
As such, both their mission to be accessible to the community and the specific duties that they carry out require them to be on foot rather than in a patrol car.
But three officers at the 109th Precinct insisted that the single car they had slated for auxiliary use was not enough considering that they had around 100 auxiliary officers, and that their precinct extended all the way from College Point to the Cross Island Parkway.
“It’s very frustrating, very hard, because you do these details and you get on average 10, 15, 20 [officers] and you can’t get them there,” the auxiliary officer said.
The officer and his associates said they had reached out to local officials funds for a vehicle.
“I hear that right now these big guys like [Councilman] Peter Koo, [Councilman Paul] Vallone, they all just allocated like a million dollars in funds. Couldn’t a couple of them just split it or something?”
He said they weren’t asking for much.
“Give us the hand-me downs, give us the used cars.”
The auxiliary officers said they would approach electeds while on shift and mention the issue, but that they didn’t feel comfortable writing a letter, as some politicians had requested, due to department protocol.
Koo had nonetheless recently been made aware of the issue through more formal channels.
“Council Member Koo met with the Deputy Inspector of the 109th [Precinct] on another matter when the DI mentioned they could use an auxiliary van. We’re treating that request seriously, and exploring how we can make it happen in the future,” Communications Director Scott Siebert said.
Siebert also noted that Koo had recently won funding for more police officers in the 109th Precinct.
Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Kew Garden Hills), who’d been a commanding auxiliary officer in the 107th Precinct before he became an assemblyman, admitted that in the case of the Fort Totten fireworks, “if I was the driver, I don’t know how happy I would be about having to make the drive 20 times.”
But he said that it was standard for police precincts to have only one auxiliary vehicle, for doing post checks, not patrols.
“They are meant to walk, they are supposed to have specific stationary posts,” he said of auxiliary officers.
“I don’t ever remember having more than one car, possibly a van,” Simanowitz added.
Only in certain years would a van be added to the roster, if the department had an old one to spare, he said.
An officer who answered the phone in the 107th Precinct, which covers Fresh Meadows and South Flushing, said they had one auxiliary car, while an officer who answered the phone in the 105th Precinct, which covers neighborhoods from Bellerose to Rosedale, said they had two vehicles.
But the 109th Precinct officer said that he was sure the 107th Precinct had a 15-passenger van, and at least two other auxiliary cars.
And besides, he said, they have fewer auxiliary officers.
“We’ve been battling this for a long time, and we’ll probably battle it for more to come,” the officer said.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana