Police commander takes over Chinatown precinct
By Albert Amateau
Captain William Matusiak, a 19-year veteran of the N.Y.P.D., is the new commanding officer of the Fifth Precinct, appointed in August to the precinct that covers Chinatown, Little Italy and part of the Lower East Side.
Hes had a busy two months since coming Downtown from his previous post as commanding officer of the Manhattan South Task Force, which works out of W. 42nd St. Prior to commanding the task force, which handles special events in Manhattan from 59th St. to The Battery, Matusiak was executive officer of the Ninth Precinct in Alphabet City and before that he was executive officer of the Sixth Precinct in the West Village.
We had two burglary patterns last month that my guys closed last week, he said last week in an interview at the Fifth Precinct stationhouse on Elizabeth St.
One of the patterns had incidents in which suspects cut the locks on roll-down gates of stores and make off with cash. We caught the two of them on Sept. 25 at a location on Baxter St. and Canal. We know they did seven burglaries they admitted to the one we caught them at, Matusiak said.
The other pattern involved a suspect who entered apartment windows from the fire escapes of Lower East Side tenements between Henry and Monroe Sts. I had a cop on a rooftop who spotted the guy climbing up and down a fire escape looking for someplace to enter, Matusiak said. The cop saw him go in one window and we caught the guy coming out the front door with the stuff he had stolen a 16-year-old kid. He admitted to seven burglaries. We arrested him Monday (Sept. 29) and we havent had a burglary since.
Crime in the seven major categories in the precinct continues to go down, declining 23 percent from the same 28-day period last year. The statistics show a 34 percent decline for the week compared with the same seven-day period last year.
We had a major marijuana case two weeks ago, Matusiak added, referring to a raid by Fifth Precinct and Manhattan South police on the second floor of a loft building at 39 Eldridge St. on Sept. 18. Police found more than 400 marijuana plants growing in a hydroponic system under artificial light, but made only one arrest.
That place was unbelievable, Matusiak said. They had secret rooms, magnetic locks a huge operation. Its one were going to follow up on, he added, noting that the precinct has many loft buildings similar to the one on Eldridge near Canal St.
We have several homeless shelters in the precinct and we try to reach out to the homeless and get them off the streets and into shelters or hospitals if necessary, the captain said.
Illegal peddlers selling counterfeit goods are a constant concern, mostly on Canal St., which is a destination for tourists and shoppers. We make a lot of arrests and seizures of counterfeit goods, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Rolex, you name it, Matusiak said. Indeed, one room in the precinct, used to store seized counterfeit items, is always full.
The Fifth Precincts peddler detail has four officers and a sergeant, but every one in the precinct pitches in, Matusiak said. The Manhattan Borough Patrol Command also works with the precinct and a private agency, engaged by a law firm representing manufacturers of the real goods, secures civil warrants for counterfeit enforcement.
Matusiak, married and the father of a six-month-old daughter, was raised in Queens, and went to Brooklyn Polytechnic and Manhattan College before joining the police force. He earned a bachelors degree from John Jay and he earned a law degree from St. Johns University in 1995. I took the bar exam a year later because I had the lieutenants test at that time, he recalled.
The precinct, bounded by E. Houston St., Frankfort St., Broadway, Allen St. and the East River, has 163 uniformed officers and 28 civilian employees and handles some major street events. The San Gennaro festival took place last month and the Chinese 10-10 celebration, marking the Oct. 10 anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Republic in 1912 is this week not to mention the Chinese New Year at the beginning of next year.
We have to deal with a lot of movies and TV being shot on the streets, he added. The Sopranos are on Kenmare and Mott St. right now and the Olsen twins are on Pell and Mott St. Theyre teenage idols and the location is loaded with fans, he said.
Chinatown has its share of gambling places and prostitution. We try to get the message out that gambling is illegal. It breeds prostitution and other crimes. There was a shooting on Aug. 4 (Matusiaks first day at the Fifth Precinct) in a gambling place on Allen St., he said.
Nevertheless, the Fifth Precinct has close ties to the Chinatown community. Community meetings are a big part of the captains agenda. I think we have the biggest Police Auxiliary in the city about 150 members, he said. Its a great place to work. Theres a lot going on and the community appreciates you.