We were joined by senior members of the NYPD’s Department of Community Affairs, as well as the new Captain of the 102nd Precinct Henry “Hank” Sautner, as the Blockwatcher Program was officially launched here in Woodhaven.
A total of 59 residents went through the training class and received identification cards with unique ID numbers that can be used when calling in an issue. Nearly two dozen additional residents have expressed interest in joining the program, giving our local precinct approximately 80 additional pairs of eyes and ears on the street.
Deputy Inspector Amin Kosseim of the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau noted that this was the highest participation they had seen in any precinct thus far. He also promised that they would work with us on launching civilian patrols.
How well this program works in Woodhaven is entirely up to us. It’s gratifying that we had such a nice turnout and high participation, but if we left it at that I don’t believe it would get us very far.
It’s not enough that the Blockwatchers communicate with the NYPD, we all need to communicate with each other. And so we have asked our Blockwatchers to report back to the WRBA each and every time they call something in, as well as any resolution to the issue, so that we can compile a monthly report for the 102nd Precinct.
In most cases, the use of 911 and 311 seems pretty clear cut. If you see a crime in progress – a person being mugged or a car being broken into – you call 911. If you see a condition that needs attention – a pothole or a broken streetlight – you call 311.
And those who have signed up for this program should use their Blockwatcher ID when calling either number. This ID number will alert the operator taking the call that the information is coming from someone who has been through the training and is participating in the program.
Our expectation is that by giving the operator your ID number, you will get better or faster service. But only if we compare notes with each other and compile results will we actually see if that is true.
In other instances, the use of 911 or 311 is less obvious. There are a lot of factors that go into deciding if something is an emergency or not. A primary factor is whether or not the emergency is current or happening right now. In other words, if the police respond right now, will they be able to catch the criminal?
But what about activities that are not current, or don’t rise to the level of emergencies (though they are breaking the law)?
For example, let’s suppose that you’ve noticed a group of people hanging about drinking in a playground each Saturday night, and each Sunday morning the place is a mess. It’s not quite an emergency, but it needs to be reported. You should probably call this in to 311, givie them your Blockwatcher ID, and then report it to the WRBA.
This will be an ongoing educational process for our Blockwatchers. There will be more training classes for those who are interested in joining, and we will look to have periodic meetings for Blockwatchers only to discuss the effectiveness of the program and seek ways to improve it to suit our needs.
If you are interested in signing up, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (718) 296-3735. Our next Town Hall meeting will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 16, at the Woodhaven Volunteer Ambulance Corps.