Sunday, February 15, 2009
COP PLAN: GO ON 'OFFENSE'
PETTY-CRIME GET-TOUGH SUMMIT
By Brad Hamilton and Murray Weiss
February 15, 2009
New York Post
After giving petty criminals a break, the NYPD summoned a dozen precinct commanders to Headquarters Friday to help focus efforts against aggressive beggars, squeegee men, hookers and illegal peddlers, The Post has learned.
Station-house bosses from Manhattan and The Bronx met with top brass and gave them reports on quality-of-life problems each is facing, according to sources familiar with the gathering.
The summit was called by Chief of Department Joseph Esposito after cops issued 7.1 percent fewer summonses for minor offenses in 2008 than in 2007, as The Post reported last month.
"The chief doesn't want anyone taking their eyes off the ball," a source said.
"They want to get a hold of these quality-of-life problems," said another. "They really want to go back to basics."
Early in the week, a unit from headquarters scouted the city looking for problem areas and taking photos. Then brass called the sitdown with precinct heads to hear from them.
They talked about petty crimes and misdemeanors that can drive the average New Yorker nuts - street walkers, panhandlers who get in your face and homeless people who hang out at ATMs or fast-food joints.
Commanders from East Harlem reported on prostitution problems, sources said, while the Central Park commanding officer talked about the homeless who sleep on benches and harass parkgoers.
Times Square eateries have been plagued by beggars who hold open the door and pester customers. A lone squeegee man who hangs out near the Lincoln Tunnel and Port Authority bus terminal attracted particular attention, with three commanders saying they knew of him and his 50 arrests.
And although the NYPD is struggling to keep a lid on such problems amid budget cuts and the ongoing emphasis on counterterrorism, sources said there were fewer problems than might have been expected.
"They walked away thinking, 'We're doing a pretty good job here.' It wasn't a crisis situation. If you know your squeegee men by first name, you're on top of this."
Even so, said this source: "If you have a homeless person on your street, that's a threat."
The gathering, which followed a similar sitdown in December, was a clear sign that Commissioner Ray Kelly is emphasizing a zero-tolerance approach, sources said.
Kelly said as much in an op-ed piece he penned for The Post on Jan. 28.
"A fair look at the statistics shows that the NYPD remains intent on improving quality of life by suppressing violations at every turn - just as Mayor Bloomberg directed from his first days in office," he wrote.
Additional monthly quality-of-life meetings have been planned as part of an ongoing effort to improve enforcement on petty offenses, which slacked off in 2008, sources said.
On Jan. 8, The Post reported that cops last year issued 38,372 fewer criminal summonses for offenses such as loitering, drinking in public and disorderly conduct. Moving-violation tickets also declined 6 percent, and parking tickets plummeted 12 percent.
Last year's ticket fritz came as the NYPD broke up special units in each precinct that went after drivers who speed, run red lights and park illegally.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Friday's powwow was part of regular summits at One Police Plaza to brainstorm and stay on top of crime issues.
"The NYPD's record on quality-of-life enforcement from 2002 forward is unmatched," he said. "The fact that it was discussed Friday is not remarkable."
Posted by ChangeBuilders at 1:36 PM