Tag Archives: Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol

106th Precinct addresses dispute with Howard Beach civilian patrol group


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/file photo

BY ANGELA MATUA

Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff, commanding officer of the 106th Precinct, directly addressed a controversial dispute between his precinct and an organization called the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol (HBCOP) at Wednesday’s 106th Precinct Community Council meeting in Ozone Park.

HBCOP describes itself as “a civilian neighborhood watch program involving responsible civilians who volunteer to act as the eyes and ears of the police department,” according to its Facebook page. Some of HBCOP’s members claimed they applied with the NYPD to receive an official police department COP certification, which allows community members to act as watchdogs.

According to Facebook posts by its president Joseph Thompson, HBCOP submitted the paperwork to enroll in this program and posted emails he exchanged with Community Affairs Officer Brenda Reddick on the organization’s Facebook page as proof.

But according to the emails, which contained the words “citizens police academy” in the subject line, Thompson actually asked to be enrolled in the Citizens Police Academy program, which is a separate 14-week program meant to “provide training in the legal, social and procedural aspects of policing.”

“We told this individual what is to be expected from the civilian observation patrol and what is to be submitted to us,” Schiff said. “To this day, we have not received a single application to the COP [program]. It hasn’t been done.”

The patrol also had problems with police, according to published reports, after it spread misinformation about a recent burglary at a KFC on Cross Bay Boulevard, claiming that employees were tied up by suspects during a robbery.

The crime, police noted, was actually a late-night burglary while the KFC was closed; no employees were at the scene at that time.

P.O. Michael Sardone received the Cop of the Month award at the 106th Precinct Community Council Meeting on Wednesday, May 14. (Photo courtesy of 106th Precinct)

P.O. Michael Sardone received the Cop of the Month award at the 106th Precinct Community Council Meeting on Wednesday, May 14. (Photo courtesy of 106th Precinct)

In other news, Schiff reported that crime is slightly up in the precinct, which covers Ozone Park, South Ozone Park, Lindenwood and Howard Beach. Auto theft is a problem that has plagued the precinct and Schiff said several arrests of suspected car thieves were recently made.

Robberies, he said, have been a multi-precinct problem, with the neighboring 102nd and 113th precincts sharing the burden. Schiff said the precincts have worked together to come up with a coordinated strategy and that it seems to be working. This month, 21 robbery arrests have been made.

Identity theft is also a problem in the district, and officers have pushed an awareness campaign to inform residents how to avoid having their identity stolen.

In advance of the Fourth of July, officers are also executing an initiative to confiscate fireworks. Officers said 99-cent stores and other businesses sometimes sell fireworks on the side and that there will be a zero-tolerance policy for anyone found with them.

The NYPD also offers a reward to anyone who provides information regarding the illegal sale, distribution or use of fireworks.

P.O. Michael Sardone was honored as Cop of the Month for apprehending two individuals on April 5 who tried robbing someone at knife point along Liberty Avenue. Sardone, along with other officers, canvassed the area, and Sardone was able to secure the knife and make the arrests.

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Car tires and rims become big target for thieves in southern Queens


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Joe Thompson

Move over NASCAR pit crews, there’s a new team pulling wheels off of cars and they’re doing it in record time across southern Queens neighborhoods.

While auto theft is on the decline across the city, there has been a new wave of thefts targeting cars that is taking place in and around Howard Beach. But this time, thieves take the wheels and leave the cars behind.

“Old school crime on the rise,” wrote one resident on the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol Facebook page.

“Nothing new in Lindenwood,” wrote another.

The 106th Precinct sent out fliers warning residents and car owners about the thefts, identifying the types of cars being targeted and providing pointers on how to guard against the theft of wheels and tires.

“It costs close to $3,000 to replace those rims and tires,” said Detective Kenny Zorn from the 106th Precinct. “We’re out there preaching crime prevention and have unmarked and marked cars patrolling the areas more frequently.”

The 106th Precinct has also been out in Lindenwood passing out the fliers to residents warning of the crime. They say Lindenwood is one of the easiest areas to hit for thieves because of the multi-family houses.

In the last 28-day period, Zorn said there have been four reported tire removals in cars in the Lindenwood area alone.

The civilian patrol reported two cars stripped of their wheels in the last two weeks, and comments on some of the pictures posted show the crime is happening at a higher rate throughout the neighborhood.

“This has to be a group of people working together because they get these tires off in seconds,” said Joe Thompson, president of the patrol. “It’s been going on for a long time, but now it seems to be happening almost every night.”

Jacking up a car, putting it on bricks and pulling the tires off can occur in seconds with experienced thieves.

Thompson said that while he was on patrol he got a call from a resident of Ozone Park about four males in the process of taking tires off a car. He notified 911 immediately and drove over to the scene. Arriving no more than six minutes later, Thompson said the thieves were already gone and observed the car on bricks and tilted forward.

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On the flier, the police warn that late model Hondas, Nissans, Toyotas and Mercedes are being targeted for their rims. They recommend that car owners use wheel locks, motion sensor lights, or an alarm with a mercury tilt switch to make their cars harder targets.

“It’s scary,” he said. “All these cars are brand-new, and it’s terrible for these residents. It affects their insurance and just makes things more difficult for them.”

Thompson said that his patrol has been watching for suspicious cars around the neighborhood and has been documenting license plates for the police. He said he has no real leads on who these thieves might be, but he believes they circle the area and pick out which cars they want to hit before they strike.

“We get calls from people every night, telling us of suspicious cars around the neighborhood or ones parked in front of their houses for a long period of time,” he said. “We’ve been collecting the information and are talking to the police to hopefully stop these criminals.

Anyone with information about this crime is urged to call CRIME STOPPERS at 1-800-577-TIPS. Zorn also said if anyone sees the crime going on to call 911 immediately. If you want more information on how to prevent the crime, call the 106th Precinct’s crime prevention number at 718-845-2223.

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Lindenwood street still sinking after fixed by DEP


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Despite recent attempts by the Department of Environmental Protection to fix a sinking section of a Lindenwood street, the pavement at the corner of 79th Street and 157th Avenue has again sunk by as much as a foot.

The corner is totally unusable to cars, and residents worry about pedestrians walking there and vehicles possibly getting stuck in the dip.

“The hole has gotten worse than ever since they came in to fix it,” said Joe Thompson, a Lindenwood resident and president of the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol. “We visited the hole this week and saw a large puddle completely frozen over. What if someone slips into that because the water can’t drain correctly, or what if a car makes too fast of a turn around the corner not realizing the hole [is there]? It’s dangerous.”

The DEP came in October to work on the street after The Courier first reported on the situation. They did extensive work on the infrastructure of the pipes below ground. This included fixing the connection of the catch basin and sewer at the location. They also inspected the adjacent ground water and sewer infrastructure and found everything to be working normally.

Once the repair was completed, the road was resurfaced from 80th Street down to the sinking area. But, almost three months after the work was completed, some of the resurfacing has begun to sink in, creating potholes on the block, and the corner still remains a problem.

The street has been in a bad condition for years but began to worsen after an April 30 flooding disaster, residents 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.

lindenwoodstreet2

A DEP representative said the department has fixed the problem that was causing the street to sink and that they will continue to work with the Department of Transportation to determine what future steps may be necessary to ensure that stormwater can drain off the street properly.

Thompson said the street needs to be elevated to avoid the potential of a tragedy.

“It needs to be fixed again,” he said. “I understand that it is the winter months and it is hard to repave during this time, but at least put cones around the section and make it a caution area until work can be done.”

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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


| slicata@queenscourier.com

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


| slicata@queenscourier.com

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


| slicata@queenscourier.com

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


| slicata@queenscourier.com

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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