Members monitor short wave precinct transmissions as patrol cars are dispatched throughout the area.
“We assist in electric wire down situations, car accidents, and fires by blocking off traffic and pedestrians,” explained Louis Kirchtessner, GCOP president, while patrolling in a GPS-equipped SUV on a recent night.
“We act as the eyes and ears of the community,” added Kirchtessner, a nine-year veteran of GCOP. “When we see something in progress – a burglary, a mugging, an auto or other accident, acts of vandalism, or spot a wanted or missing person – one member contacts 911 while the other alerts the desk sergeant at the 104th Precinct.”
GCOP also helps the police in crowd and traffic control for street festivals and parades and sets up flares in emergency conditions, such as EMS calls and motor accidents.
Last Tuesday night, four two-man teams met at a rendezvous street where the patrol supervisor designated general assignment areas. Among that night's objectives was to paint over recently spotted graffiti sites.
Cars are kept in the same general location for quick back-up in case anyone needs assistance after spotting something in progress. Members remain in contact via handy two-way radios.
At about 8:30 p.m., Raymond Hartmanpotted a woman who fell on a Myrtle Avenue sidewalk.
“Before we could stop the car, she was helped up by pedestrians,” he said. “The important thing is to be on the scene, or nearby, when accidents happen.”
Fresh graffiti was spotted on walls and metal roll-down doors along Myrtle Avenue. GCOP members jumped out of their cars, photographed it for the record, and then spray painted over the vandalism.
Camille Venezia, GCOP treasurer, cleaned off a door and a wall at Myrtle Avenue and 70th Street in Glendale.
“I spotted this graffiti three days ago and now that it’s been documented, it’s history,” he stated.
What happens when someone’s caught in the act?
“We hold the graffiti vandal there until the police arrive,” Venezia said. “They take pictures and paint samples before they arrest him. Then it’s up to the district attorney – based on age and previous record - what action is taken.”
With graffiti vandalism a crime, perpetrators 16 years and older are charged with a felony. Older teenagers or adults may get fines or jail term imposed on them by the judge. With juveniles, however, the parents must pick them up at the precinct where, after receiving a stern warning on property damage, they are usually released.
Graffiti vandalism is a major challenge borough and citywide and a big concern of GCOP.
“We see a lot of graffiti ourselves, people report it to us, and we work closely with the 104th vandal squad and other neighborhood and city organizations to combat it,” said John Kablack, a seven-year member and sergeant at arms of G-COP.
On the local level, each precinct has a graffiti officer whose job is to take reports, maintain files, and follow up on leads.
“It’s important to make graffiti reports because the precinct commanding officer has to answer for all these incidents, and when he has a lot of graffiti in his area it doesn’t look good for him,” Kirchtessner advised. “It’s a quality of life issue that can go unnoticed and ignored if not reported.”
Happily, graffiti reports have been down for the last quarter in the 104th Precinct. The drop could be cyclical, or simply because graffiti vandals don’t like to work in wet weather.
On the recent patrol, a GCOP car stopped at the isolated 80th Street underpass – monitored frequently by the 104th and the 112th precincts - which revealed many traces of painted-over old graffiti.
“Trestles and overpasses are prime targets so they must be cleaned up regularly,” explained Kirshtessner, as he photographed fresh graffiti from the car window for the file.
Two GCOP cars linked up at 88th Street and 74th Avenue near s Home Depot store. Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and Michael Miller, a candidate for the 18th Assembly District, existed to observe a graffiti-stained wall.
“I’m here to lend my support to GCOP, which has become the patrolling model for other precincts,” Crowley said. “They have been offering a sense of security for the community for 33 years by their presence, and are lending a helping hand to other groups.”
Frank Kotnik, ex-president and 20-year GCOP member, said that the group came into being during the city fiscal crisis and big service cuts of l976. Today, it boasts 75 members, including three original members.
“During 9/11, we freed up a lot of police officers to do important work,” Kotnik said.