PROSPECT HEIGHTS/PARK SLOPE – Residents of the 78th Precinct were introduced to their new Commanding Officer at last Tuesday’s Community Council meeting.
Captain Jason Hagestad, a self-proclaimed “Brooklyn boy,” has lived in Bay Ridge his entire life and has served in several precincts across the borough.
“I went to PS 102 in Bay Ridge. After that I went to McKinley Junior High School in Dyker Heights,” Hagestad told BKLYNER in an interview late last week. “For high school I went to Xaverian High School which is right on Shore Road in Bay Ridge.”
Born into a military family, Hagestad initially wanted to attend the United States Air Force Academy after graduating high school. His father served in the U.S. Navy while his grandfather and great-uncles, after emigrating from Norway, enlisted in various branches of the U.S. military and fought in World War II. Hagestad instead attended St. Joseph’s College in Clinton Hill where he studied business administration on a full academic scholarship.
After completing his undergraduate studies in 2001, “the market was very bad at the time and then after 9/11 it was a lot worse,” he remembers. “I was just doing anything to make ends meet…. I was valet parking at a catering hall in Bay Ridge and right after 9/11 they started holding stress management meetings there for officers and fire fighters to cope with the stresses of 9/11.”
“I would talk to them about the police department and I started to think, ‘You know what? You’re out there. You’re helping people,'” he recalls of these conversations.
“I started changing my mind about what I wanted to do for a career, so I wound up studying for the city’s police exam shortly after that,” he explains. “I took the exam in June 2002 and was hired by the police department in July 2003, and less than 15 years later, I’m the Commanding Officer of a precinct,” he said proudly.
This past December, Hagestad also received his Master’s Degree from Seton Hall University for a Police Graduate Studies program in human resource training and development.
At the start of Tuesday night’s meeting, Hagestad briefed everyone on his history with the NYPD. “I started off my career in 2003 in the 67th Precinct and I went to the Brooklyn South Task Force for a brief period of time. Then I moved on to the 66th Precinct in Borough Park.”
Hagestad was made a Sergeant in 2008 and served at Manhattan’s 13th Precinct for two-and-a-half years. He then worked in the NYPD’s Quality Assurance Division conducting internal audits within the police department before becoming Lieutenant. “I actually came here. I was a Lieutenant here at the 78th for about seven months, from the end of 2012 to 2013,” he noted.
Continuing his meteoric rise in the police force, he made Captain in January 2015 and served as Executive Officer of the 76th Precinct (Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill/Red Hook) for approximately six months before moving to the 61st Precinct (Sheepshead Bay) for two years. He was Executive Officer at the 60th Precinct (Coney Island) for approximately six months before being named the Commanding Officer of the 78th Precinct covering Park Slope and parts of Gowanus and Prospect Heights.
“I’m very, very excited to be here,” he said at the meeting. “I never thought I’d be able to come to a community like this. It’s really a unique, nice place. We have our pockets of crime here and there. Traffic is a big issue here. I was a Lieutenant here right as the Barclays was opening so I know there’s a lot going on traffic-wise.”
Hagestad’s first day at the 78th Precinct was March 5, the day that Dorothy Bruns ran a red light on 9th Street and killed two children—Joshua Lew and Abigail Blumenstein.
“My first not even hour here, we had the tragedy at 9th Street and 5th Avenue,” he recalled at the meeting.
“I looked up enforcement [at the intersection of 9th St. & 5th Ave.] from this year and previous years,” Hagestad told BKLYNER. “There’s a lot of traffic that goes through there, vehicular and pedestrian, and they’ve done an enormous amount of enforcement there, but all the enforcement in the world I don’t think would have prevented the tragedy that happened on the 5th.”
He says he hopes that legislation will be passed that prevents people with medical conditions that may impact their driving from getting behind the wheel, escalates the fines imposed by traffic cameras, and expands the city’s speed camera program.
Regarding other priorities in the 78th Precinct he notes, “As far as crime is concerned, I remember from my time here as a Lieutenant, it’s a property-crime command. You don’t really have a lot of violence in this neighborhood…but there’s a lot of property crime. We do have our share of robberies.”
A recent concern officers are looking into involves mail fishing, in which individuals “fish” checks out of mailboxes, use chemicals to remove the ink, and rewrite the checks to themselves, sometimes for thousands of dollars. There have been three recent incidents of suspected mail fishing at two local mailboxes—one at 9th Street & 5th Avenue and another at Vanderbilt Avenue & Prospect Place.
“I’m going to try to meet with some representatives at the post office to determine if it is mail fishing [or] if it’s somebody at the post office,” Hagestad told BKLYNER.
Regarding a longer standing issue in the area, Hagestad said, “I’ve definitely heard that the community is not too pleased with Woodland…. I know other commands I’ve worked in, there were some really problematic bars, where you may have a couple of shootings, stabbings….” He recalled helping to get one violence-plagued venue on Avenue U shut down. “I don’t know if there’s enough ammo, so to speak, from the police department’s end, for them to say we’re not going to renew the license,” he said about Woodland. “Anytime there’s an incident at a license premise, we send a complaint report to the SLA [State Liquor Authority].”
A complaint report has to involve more than loud noise or something that can be handled with a call to 311, he explained. “It’s more like an assault, a robbery, stolen items, and stuff like that. Once there’s a complaint report, we always let the SLA know,” he said, adding that he plans to visit Woodland in the coming weeks.
Overall, Hagestad is excited to be working in Park Slope. “It is a fantastic neighborhood here,” he said. “I want everybody to enjoy themselves and have fun…. Just be safe with everything that you’re doing. If you have community issues, problems—that’s what we’re here for.”