Background: Born and raised in Brooklyn, Joseph Thompson joined his first Civilian Observation Patrol (COP) at the age of 16. He was an auxiliary police officer for the NYPD for 10 years. He moved to Howard Beach 19 years ago, where he lives with his wife and children. This summer, he noticed that the crime rate in his neighborhood was very high, but it was something his 9-year-old daughter said that compelled him to “get up off the couch and do something” about it, he said. He was watching the news with his daughter when they saw a story about their 72-year-old neighbor who had been punched in the face and robbed of her purse. The young girl told him, “That could have been grandma.” It motivated Thompson to put his experience in the field of security to use and start a civilian observation patrol.
Community Involvement: Thompson met with the local police officers and elected officials to discuss the idea. He incorporated the Howard Beach COP on June 26, 2014, and formed its structure over the next two months. The nonprofit, volunteer organization deals with quality-of-life issues such as potholes and graffiti. It went on its first patrol in August. In 68 days, they dealt with 148 incidents and had to call 911 only twice. They helped a neighbor find her daughter who had been missing for 38 hours. The volunteers also work to prevent crime. Recently, they went on a drive checking parked cars for unlocked doors. The organization runs on donations that are used to pay for gas for their two patrol cars, insurance, uniforms and other equipment.
Greatest Achievement: “Our motto is ‘We are neighbors helping neighbors,’” said Thompson. “My greatest achievement is getting neighbors together for the first time and create something that will bring about change, working together and helping each other. I am not doing this alone: it’s all the volunteers who work hard and help out even when it is 20 degrees outside.”
Biggest Challenge: “Trying to get volunteers and donations to keep the organization going is the biggest challenge,” said Thompson. “We have 22 volunteers now and need 40 to qualify for the NYPD Civilian Patrol. We are working on signing up more people.”
Inspiration: “My inspiration is Frank Kotnik, president of the 104th Precinct Civilian Observation Patrol. It is a nonprofit, and a sanctioned group with the NYPD. He started it 38 years ago. I often call him for advice and inspiration.”