BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO
Beat cops are returning to the streets of Middle Village and other communities across the city under an NYPD restructuring plan that the 104th Precinct’s commanding officer explained during Wednesday’s Middle Village Property Owners and Residents Association meeting at St. Margaret’s Parish Hall.
“We’re going to basically decentralize the police department,” Capt. Mark Wachter told attendees. “What the police department is looking to, and has done already under Commissioner Bratton, is to have the neighborhood community officer back.”
The 104th Precinct is currently divided into 13 different sectors, three of which include Middle Village. According to the captain, the precinct ranks second in the city in terms of the number of 311 calls, with an average of 400 complaints filed each week.
Due to the high call volume, patrol cars currently spend the majority of their time going from “job to job” in response to these calls. “Sometimes they’re dealing with three or four jobs at the same time,” Wachter added.
The new plan will divide the precinct into four distinct areas based largely on the neighborhood boundaries of Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village. It will also allow for increased patrol cars, as well as a regular, designated patrol officer in each neighborhood similar to the bygone days of the beat cop.
“We’re going to increase the amount of officers that you’re going to see in this area,” Wachter explained. “Instead of seeing one patrol car, you’re going to probably see around three.”
Wachter explained that while two of those patrol cars will be responding to emergency calls, the third patrol car will be dedicated to dealing exclusively with the community.
“They will be coming to civic meetings, meeting with people in the neighborhood, sitting in the back of the deli and having a cup of coffee while getting to know the community,” he explained. “We’ve gone away from that, and that was due to the amount of officers we had.”
Wachter credits Commissioner Bratton’s hiring of an extra 1,100 new officers as the reason the precinct is now able to return to community-based patrols. “By hiring those extra officers, they will be coming to the precinct so that I, myself, will have more manpower and be able to do this,” he stated.
Many residents at the meeting applauded this effort and spoke out in favor of the return of individualized community patrols in Middle Village. Captain Wachter himself recalled a time the beat cop was a part of daily life in Queens. “I grew up in Glendale and I remember the beat cop,” he said. “I still remember his name, it was Officer Esposito. And that’s the guy you called.”
The restructuring plan is currently in effect in roughly eight or nine precincts throughout the city. The plan will also regroup specialty officers from specific task forces, such as the Community Affairs, Anti-Crime, Schools and Conditions Units, and blend them into the precinct.
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