- Real Estate
- Under Cover
- Special Editorial
- In Pictures
BY COLIN MIXSON
These cops are armed with a smile.
New York’s Finest are hoping to make friends with Lower Manhattan residents and small business owners as part of a new program that’s reviving an old-fashioned policing strategy — the beat cop — which launched in Downtown’s First Precinct last week.
So, if one of Downtown’s boys in blue walks up with a smile and an outstretched hand, just assume the best, according to the new program’s chief.
“The new change of philosophy is we’re officially dedicating time to spend off the radio to talk to the people and get to know the community,” said Sergeant Eugene Cummings, ranking officer of the First Precinct’s Neighborhood Policing program.
The precinct’s Neighborhood Coordination Officers, or NCOs, publicly unveiled the program during an April 10th meet and greet, where they hobnobbed with local civic gurus in and effort to spread the word of the new policing strategy.
The 11 new NCOs are divided amongst four sectors within the Downtown precinct, where they’ll spend their time shaking hands with locals, poking their heads into mom and pop shops, and getting to know their beat one block at a time, Cummings explained.
“They should be out walking the street, but also going inside and engaging businesses and residents, saying ‘hi,’ and introducing ourselves,” Cummings explained.
And if not everyone is ready to open their hearts to a new face with a badge, that’s okay, according to Cummings, who said his officers will be handing out their business cards in the hope that locals will come to recognize the NCOs as community fixtures — and helpers — who can give special attention to neighborhood concerns and quality-of-life issues.
“Some people don’t want to talk right then and there, but they might want to email later,” the sergeant said. “The idea is that if they see something going on, they’ll call us directly.”
Other patrolmen responsible for handling emergencies and responding to 911 calls will also be assigned beats within the precinct’s smaller sectors, and will be expected to spend portions of their shift getting to know locals as well, Cummings said.
“We want 30 percent of their time dedicated to off-radio, but my NCOs, they’re all off-radio,” the sergeant said.
In past years, the Lower Manhattan community’s main interaction with the First Precinct has been through once-a-month meetings of the Precinct Community Council, where locals have an opportunity to personally discuss issues facing residents and businesses with police brass. But that only offers locals a limited exposure to precinct leadership, according to the council’s leader, who expressed optimism that the new Neighborhood Policing model will give Downtowners a greater opportunity to forge personal connections with their local constabulary.
“We’ve always had the council, where often people don’t know how to navigate it, and it’s once a month, but by putting officers at a more local level, people can start building a better relationship, and that can always help,” said Anthony Notaro, president of the First Precinct’s community council. “We’re supportive of it, and I believe it will augment what the council does.”
The NCOs have also been attending events in their individual sectors to get the word out and show their faces, and cops who showed up unexpectedly at a meeting of the Battery Part City School PTA on April 13 earned accolades from parents enthused by the idea of the old-fashioned beat cops, according to one member.
“We didn’t expect them, and they got a lot of claps and ovations for coming,” said Tammy Meltzer. “I don’t think they were expecting it either, but it was fun.”
Sometime this summer, the NCOs will begin hosting more formal community meetings, dubbed Build the Block, where they’ll get into the weeds with locals discussing specific public safety issues affecting their part of town.
Until then, the NCOs will be shaking hands, making friends, and showing their compassion for the community, according to Cummings.
“We’re mean, and tough, and strong, but we’ve got a sensitive side,” Cummings said.
First Precinct Neighborhood Coodination Officers:
Sergeant Eugene Cummings
Officer Jason Poirer
Officer Arif Tasoren
Officer Giocardo Bernabe
Officer Francis Ford
Officer Miles Holman
Officer Adam Riddick
Officer Dina Bodden
Officer Joseph Milone
Officer Donald Dermody
Officer Michael Erdman,