Tag Archives: Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol

Star of Queens: Joseph Thompson, president, Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Joe Thompson

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.”

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Abandoned home in Howard Beach cleaned up


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THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

After Superstorm Sandy hit, many houses in Howard Beach were destroyed, leaving homeowners who couldn’t pay for the repairs in a bind.

Now, some of those homes sit in the same condition they were in after the storm, abandoned and deteriorating.

During his nightly patrol on Nov. 11, Joe Thompson of the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol (COP) noticed that one of these abandoned, Sandy-damaged homes had its door kicked in. He has been keeping a watchful eye on this house, on 155th Avenue and 78th Street in Lindenwood, because he knew the owners do not live there anymore.

He exited his patrol car, checked the house from the outside for any activity and then closed the door and secured it.

Thompson, realizing that the fact that no one lives at the house makes it a potential site for squatters, got in touch with some of the neighbors to see if they knew the whereabouts of the homeowner so he could get in contact with them. He was able to get a phone number and called the homeowner to ask for permission to secure the house to deter squatters from coming in.

The owners left for Florida because of the conditions of the house and their lack of money to fix it, according to Thompson. The windows had garbage bags on them, graffiti was drawn on the house, weeds were growing rapidly and there was a greenish tint on the side paneling of the house from the nearby tree.

“It hurts my heart to see someone’s home damaged and them not be able to do anything about it,” Thompson said.

After getting the OK, he went to the house with his patrol and started working on Nov. 15. They trimmed the weeds, took measurements of the windows on the first floor and went to Home Depot to buy the supplies with their own money.

The next day they came back and boarded up the windows and doors, making sure the property was secure and lessening the chance for any illegal activity to occur there.

“I know how it hurts when you don’t have any money to fix your home,” said Thompson, who had to move from his home when it was destroyed in Superstorm Sandy. “We are here to help the community and the residents here, and this is one way we were able to.”

Even though they already secured the home, Thompson and his team are going one step further. They will be coming back with a power washer to clean the greenish tint from the panels and try to wipe away the graffiti, making the home less of an eyesore for residents who live nearby. He’s also in the process of surveying Howard Beach for any other abandoned homes.

“This is what we do,” he noted. “We want to help get this neighborhood’s quality of life back.”

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Howard Beach COP gives first community report of patrol


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Photo courtesy of HBCOP

For a little over two months the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol (COP) has been making rounds throughout the neighborhood to help deter crime.

Between Aug. 18 and Oct. 22, the patrol has recorded a total of 148 incidents. Two of those incidents also saw NYPD response, according to Joe Thompson, president of the Howard Beach COP.

Addressing crime prevention and quality-of-life issues, the patrol secured 13 car trunks, 26 garage doors, 10 doors leading into a house and 18 open house doors throughout the neighborhoods of Howard Beach, Old Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach and Lindenwood.

“We are out here to work with the community and try to deter crime from happening,” Thompson said.

During the 68-day period, the patrol also called in 13 complaints to 311 and dealt with 27 “miscellaneous” incidents, which included illegal fishing in the area or ladders left at construction sites, Thompson said.

The unit has also been involved in a number of community events, including the NYFAC bike loop, Hamilton Beach Baby parade, Charles Park clean-up and the most recent Halloween parade, where Thompson drove around in a hearse to add some more spirit to the event.

Thompson said he was excited that his patrol has grown to its current 22 members with two marked and two unmarked patrol cars as it continues to help out the residents of Howard Beach.

“This is what we do,” Thompson said. “And we do it to help renew the quality of life in the neighborhood.”

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Sinking Lindenwood street being repaired


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

A sinking street in Lindenwood that has caused hazardous situations for drivers and residents for years is now being repaired by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The street, located at the corner of 157th Avenue and 79th Street, was caving in and a one-foot deep sinkhole formed near the catch basin on the corner.

For years, residents say they have been making complaints about the street but nothing has been done until The Courier first reported the story on Oct. 14.

The street began to worsen after an April 30 flooding disaster, residents also said. The Spring Creek sewer overflow facility, maintained by the DEP, malfunctioned during a major rainstorm that night causing the sewers in Lindenwood to back up, flooding the streets.

Joe Thompson, a resident and president of the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol, was shocked on how fast the response was to the sinking street.

sinkingstreet-624x416

“I have never seen a response this quick before,” said Thompson, who submitted a 311 complaint three weeks ago about the hole but never got an answer. “It’s another positive closure for the renewal of our quality of life here in Howard Beach.”

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Sinking street in Lindenwood continues to worsen


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THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Lindenwood residents are getting a sinking feeling about one of their streets.

For years, the roadway at the corner of 157th Avenue and 79th Street in has been slowly caving in, but recently it has worsened, leaving residents worried the street might collapse.

“This part of the street has been like this for a while now,” said Joe Thompson, a resident of Lindenwood and president of the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol. “We’ve put in complaints about it to the city.”

After an April 30 flooding disaster, residents say the street has only gotten worse. The Spring Creek sewer overflow facility malfunctioned during a major rainstorm that night causing the sewers in Lindenwood to back up, flooding the streets.

Since then, the part of the roadway that slopes to the sidewalk has been collapsing straight down, forming a ditch along the curb. There is also a large hole forming near the catch basin on the street that sinks down over a foot deep in the asphalt.

“I have family visiting me all the time and I tell them to avoid this block because I do not want their cars to bottom out,” said one resident who was driving by the street. “It’s really bad and it’s only getting worse.”

Thompson said he filed his claim about three weeks ago with 311 but has yet to receive a response. He said that he has talked to residents who have said they have complained for years but have given up because nothing has been done.

“It’s a very unsafe condition and we want to get it addressed,” Thomspon said.  “Hopefully this will be solved.”

The Department of Transportation differed comment to the Department of Environmental Protection which did not respond to email requests for comment.

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Howard Beach COP car gets tire slashed


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Joe Thompson

He woke up to exactly what he is trying to deter.

Joe Thompson, founder of the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol, was on watch Wednesday night and was getting a great response from his neighbors about his work.

But the next morning when he checked up on his patrol car, he saw a slash in one of its tires.

“I came back from patrol around 12 a.m. and parked my car in front of the house,” Thompson said. “When I came outside I noticed my tire was flat and when I looked at it I noticed a big slash.”

Thompson and his team just started patrolling the streets of Howard Beach and Lindenwood last week and have gotten a positive response from many residents. The slashed tire came as a shock to Thompson but he said it was something he could see happening.

“You’re always going to catch a few people that are against what you do,” Thompson said. “It’s a shame.”

Thompson said the vandalism will not alter his plans.

He said he hopes to have more civilian patrol cars on the streets in the future and that this one act of vandalism will not deter him.

“We are here to help the community,” Thompson said. “This won’t stop us from doing our patrol.”

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Howard Beach COP starts patrol


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Photo courtesy of Joe Thompson

Howard Beach and its surrounding neighborhoods have added another set of eyes on the street as the Civilian Observation Patrol officially started their watch on Aug. 19.

“In a short amount of time we have been able to accomplish a lot,”  said Joe Thompson, founder of the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol (HBCOP), a nonprofit organization. “Things are going really well.”

The patrol team has been going out through the neighborhoods of Lindenwood, Howard Beach, Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach for the past week. Thompson, joined by two to three members of the team each night, patrols the neighborhoods in the organization’s newly donated watch vehicle, which they are hoping will have an amber patrol light on top of it in the near future if approved by Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff of the 106th Precinct.

HBCOP has about 15 members at this point and is doing its patrol strictly as a not-for-profit organization with no affiliation to the NYPD yet. To be fully recognized by the NYPD all members must first complete the Citizens’ Police Academy program, according to Thompson. Until then, he will be putting all of his members through security training programs that will properly prepare them to patrol.

Even though Thompson started the patrol in hopes of deterring crime from happening, he says he and his patrol team are looking to help the community in many different ways.

“We want to be able to assist the community with all types of quality of life issues,” Thompson said.

Along with assisting the 106th Precinct in “The Loop,” HBCOP will be helping out Hamilton Beach in its annual baby parade and are looking for ways to help out in the Columbus Day Parade in October. Thompson said they will also try to assist in graffiti removal programs as well as helping to clean up Charles Park.

“We want to be embraced by the community and let them know we are here to help out,” he added.

To find out more about HBCOP, visit their new website at hbcop.com.

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Howard Beach residents to start neighborhood watch group


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Image Courtesy of Joe Thompson

BY SALVATORE LICATA

Howard Beach is hoping to add a few more sets of eyes and ears to its streets in hopes of preventing crime.

The Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol, is a soon-to-be nonprofit group of residents that will be keeping a watchful eye on the neighborhood. In an effort to keep crime down, volunteers of the group will patrol the neighborhood and report to the police any suspicious activity that may be going on.

“Howard Beach residents are screaming for assistance,” Joe Thompson, president and founder of the organization, said. “We are going to be the eyes and ears of the neighborhood and it is up to us as a community to report any crimes.”

Thompson said he decided to start the patrol group after hearing resident’s concerns at community meetings.

Crime is down slightly so far this year in the 106th Precinct, but a recent rash of burglaries in Howard Beach set off fears in the community.

Thompson has over 30 years of experience in community watch groups and was an auxiliary police officer for 10 years. He said he hopes this group will help to prevent crime from happening but also noted that his patrol units will take no physical action if they see suspicious activity.

“We will have uniforms but no weapons at all,” Thompson said. “We will not take any action against criminals, our job is to just report what we see to the police. We don’t want to be seen as vigilantes.”

Thompson said he has met with the 106th Precinct and government officials and has their okay to go along with the program as long as the group goes through the proper training and follows the guidelines of community watch groups, as stated by the community affairs office of the NYPD.

“We are always looking for people to get involved,” said Kenneth Zorn, the community affairs officer for the 106th Precinct. “It is a large commitment but these people volunteer their time to help improve the quality of life for the community.”

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo also offered his support to Thompson – but not without some concern.

“We must make it very clear that volunteers must go through the proper training before they patrol,” Addabbo said. “But if it is done correctly it is a positive community program.”

The Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol will hold their first meeting/recruitment session on June 24 at 7:30 p.m. in St. Helen’s School at 157-10 83rd St.

Thompson hopes to gain support for his initiative with other residents at the meeting.

For more information follow Thompson via Twitter @HowardBeachCOP.

 

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