FLATBUSH – Sector meetings differ from the monthly Precinct Community Council meetings in that they are held by the Neighborhood Community Officers of a particular area. The intent is to deal specifically with ongoing issues of the spot. In the past, the meetings were held at the St Pauls Church on Church Ave at East 18th st. For this one, the NCOs tried a different approach. The meeting took place in the Tennis Court Block Tenants Association Headquarters. If the objective was to draw in new participants, it worked.
The first question from the standing room only crowd was about why some people had not heard of this event before. NCO Officers Sesay and Callender explained that it was all over social media and any email lists they had. But it was clear that bringing it to the people, in this case, had opened up new potential for interaction.
First, the NCOs gave a brief synopsis of recent developments in their ongoing work in the neighborhood. The bad news: there have been increases in package thefts, mailbox phishing, subway larcenies, and IRS scams. They suggested having packages delivered to your work if you could not be home to receive them. They explained that the precinct is in the process of converting mailboxes from the older opening drawer types to the newer thin slit entrance. The new kind of mailbox discourages “phishing’, the act of lowering a cord or wire with adhesive on it into the box to draw out mail. “Subway larcenies” are a technical term for phones being snatched or delicately removed when one falls asleep on the train. The IRS scam of late involves a phone call in which a caller claims to be the IRS and wants you to wire money right that moment. The officers reminded us that the government will never call you directly and ask for money.
The good news included the stat that the whole 168,000 person precinct recorded 2 burglaries last month compared to an average of 14 monthly for most recent history. They also drew attention to their new body cameras, explaining that the cameras protected officers just as much as anyone else. They told the crowd that contrary to what some might think, they welcomed the cameras. *
There had been a thief working the area who had mugged three elderly people for their pocketbooks. They caught him on March 11th and he has remained locked up since.
Working in conjunction with health the dept, they have shut down Delroys restaurant after many complaints from the community regarding noise and activity surrounding the premises.
They worked in conjunction with the FBI to effect a takedown on East 21st of 5 members of the 8 trey crips. This announcement generated applause as some people present acknowledged that the drug dealing had been cleaned up in this area.
The NCO officers then took questions and comments. There were many. As Callender fielded the questions, officer Sesay wrote down the specifics on his giant notepad.
A woman wanted to give them a “heads up” that the better weather activity outside on the corner of Church and Ocean had started early. Officer Callender said that they would begin sending their cars with “uncommitted time” to drop by there more often.
The hottest topic from the floor, as is often the case, was about people not cleaning up after their dogs. The officers shared their frustration that they have to actually see the offense to write a ticket for it. CB14s Shawn Campbell was also in attendance at the meeting. She explained that with reoccurring issues in front of particular buildings, the owner of the building can be ticketed.
A few residents complained about the corner of Flatbush and Church Avenue. There is a sign by the laundromat that says the place is under surveillance but residents say the threat is not being taken seriously. It was mentioned that this group of people has come to know some of the officers in a friendly way. One man even suggested that the whole NCO program was not being taken seriously.
Officer Callender responded that they work hard to be welcomed into the community and assured the crowd that they were no friend to drug dealers. He clarified that this very meeting (sector meeting) was a product specific to the NCO program. The room murmured in agreement.
Callender reminded them that after 15 years of working in this area, he could see a difference. “There were times when people didn’t want to enter this area” Callender reminded them. The crowd agreed. The man who made the initial comment followed up by acknowledging how much better things were on East 21st just in the last couple of months. The room broke into applause.
Still, you could see Sesay was writing down this corner for special attention. “We will look into moving the officers currently stationed by the school, to this location once school lets out” Callender explained.
A final set of questions related to the footprint, use of parking spaces and safety around the many construction sites along Church and Flatbush.
Complaints were of the workers using all the parking spaces and sometimes “creating” some of their own.
Another gripe related to ladders being used as scaffolding leaving dangerous situations for passerby. The questioner also noted that he had called 311 and been disappointed to note that no evidence of his complaint appeared on the DOT site or anywhere he could find. Shawn Campbell asked for the complaint number to follow up on it.
The questioner inquired if NYPD was trained in OSHA rules. Callender explained that all officers are taught the basics, but that OSHA rules are one of his specialties. He asked that we bring those issues directly to him.
While there were a few heated moments, the meeting ended with applause all around and a sense that Sesay’s long list was going to be the roadmap for the NCO officers for the next quarter.
The next Sector D meeting is tentatively scheduled for June 19th.
* Before Commissioner Bratton resigned, he introduced the first cameras at a yearly NYPD update event. He explained that in the first year of testing in three cities, civilian complaints against the police dropped 25%. Whether this is because officers behave better on camera, or civilians behave better on camera, or both, is unclear. But it mattered less than the fact that fewer complaints mean fewer lawsuits and less burden on the taxpayer.