The packed, town hall-style meeting, was hosted in a joint effort between the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA) and Assemblyman Mike Miller
“It's great that we have a large number of people out here for support,” Martin Colberg, president of WRBA said. “To speak about the issues but also let the NYPD know that our community still support them and we do believe in them.
He added, “We need to make sure that we’re safe and the only way we’re safe is by working with the NYPD and making sure that they are aware of the situations and issues we’re having in our communities.”
At the meeting, O’Neill briefly discussed his background in law enforcement and 35 years as a police officer in New York City, starting as a transit cop in 1983.
“That’s where I really learned about what it means to be a police officer and how important it is to have police in this great city,” O’Neill said.
He also explained to the standing-only crowd that the NYPD is rolling out neighborhood policing in more precincts in Queens. It has not yet come to the 102nd Precinct but was launched in the 106th and 115th earlier this month.
The initiative assigns officers to smaller sectors and takes them away from answering 9-1-1 calls for a dedicated part of their shift, to better allow them to get acquainted with the members of the community they are serving.
The main part of the evening, however, was spent discussing quality of life issues in the local 102nd Precinct.
A number of residents expressed fear that the Criminal Justice Reform Act, which changes offenses like having an open container of alcohol, being in a park after hours, littering, public urination and unreasonable noise to civil complaints from criminal complaints, will have a negative impact.
“I think that having a million and a half warrants in the system is probably not an effective way to use police officers,” O’Neill said. “If I’m going to give someone a summons, I want to give them an opportunity to mail that summons in. If they have a warrant, that means that I have to take them down, I have to bring them to court and they have to appear before the judge.”
He added, “We’re taking uniform people off patrol.”
O’Neill also explained that if the individual is a repeat offender and circumstance dictates, then a criminal summons could be issued.
Vance Barbour, director of WRBA, asked O’Neill how the department balances anti-terrorism work with neighborhood policing and not taking officers out of their community with so few resources.
O’Neill said they created the critical response command to address exactly that issue.
“We used to take a car from each command and bring it into Manhattan on the day tours and the afternoon tours,” he explained.
But being a former precinct commander, he saw how important it was to have as many officers on the street as possible. So they created the new command for anti-terror response.
“We try not to take resources from other precincts throughout the city, but once in awhile we need to do that because there are pretty large events in New York City,” he said.
Residents also expressed to the city’s top-ranking police official that there are a number of noise issues from loud parties and car radios. O’Neill referred individual cases to the 102nd Precinct’s community affairs department and encouraged officers to enforce noise laws, especially from car radios.