Even though the number of police officers stationed in Queens precinct houses increased by 81 to 3,438 in 2000 from 3,357 in 1999, the borough's total force is still below the 1997 staffing level of 3,464, City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis) said last week.
A report issued by Leffler, chairman of the City Council's Public Safety Committee, showed a 2.4 percent increase in Queens police precinct staffing from January 1999 to June 2000. But there was an overall decrease of 0.75 percent in precinct staffing from April 1997 to June 2000.
"At the executive budget hearing for the fiscal year 2000 budget on May 20, 1999, Commissioner (Howard) Safir touted the total hiring of 3,000 new officers as the means by which the NYPD 'will achieve the highest average precinct staffing levels experienced in the past quarter of a century,'" Leffler said.
"However, contrary to Commissioner Safir's May 1999 assertion, most cops added are in fact not in the precinct," he said.
Safir retired this week as head of the city's police force after a little over four years as the city's top cop and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani named Department of Correction head Bernard Kerik as his successor.
Leffler said he believes that if a police commissioner makes promises to beef up staffing at the city's precincts during a budget hearing, those claims must be met.
He said the lack of an increased police presence in the precincts was disappointing, particularly since the department soon will have 41,000 uniformed officers, the highest levels in history.
The total nonprecinct head count for people who work for the NYPD but are not stationed in a precinct rose by 3,875 from April 1997 to June 2000 for an increase of 19.70 percent. Some of the nonprecinct positions are special operations, harbor patrol, organized crime and auto crime.
"The failure to raise the precinct head count above the 1997 level is a prime example of the consequences of poor strategic planning," Leffler said. "I have been urging that the NYPD improve its strategic planning since the release of the report, 'A Better Approach: Strategic Planning for the Police Department,' which I issued with the NYC Council Finance Division on June 3, 1999."
Precinct manpower has been a bone of contention among community groups, borough officials and the mayor's office. Giuliani has espoused a centralized Police Department with fewer community policing beats, whereas the neighborhood groups and borough officials have pushed for more uniformed police officers on the streets.
"The point that Council Member Leffler continues to miss is that the murder rate in this city has dropped by 64 percent and major crime has been slashed by 57 percent since 1993, making New York the safest large city in America," said Safir in a statement. "In the three precincts that he represents, the 105th, 107th and the 111th, the 64 percent decline in crime actually outpaces the whole city."
He said the NYPD uses a wide variety of indicators to measure the department's effectiveness, and the diverse tactics and strategies have made the city safer, while Leffler "continues to focus of symbolism, we focus on results." Sheila Pecoraro, president of the 105th Precinct Community Council, said she agreed with Leffler's statements that the NYPD numbers do not take into account the police officers who actually patrol the streets. She said the departments tells the public there are 40,000 police officers, but in reality only 8,000 are on patrol.
"They are not giving you the true numbers when it comes to regular patrol," she said. "The total number of precinct officers includes drug initiatives, community policing officers, community affairs officers, youth officers and domestic violence officers who do not go out on patrol."
From April 1997 until June 2000 the staffing levels at Patrol Borough Queens North precincts were: the 104th Precinct, which covers Maspeth decreased by 10 percent; the 108th Precinct, which covers Woodside, fell 9 percent; the 109th, which covers Flushing, dropped 6 percent; the 111th Precinct, which covers Bayside, increased 1 percent; the 112th Precinct, which covers Forest Hills, rose 3 percent; and the 114th Precinct, which covers Astoria, slipped by 3 percent.
In Patrol Borough Queens South precincts over the same span the staffing levels were: the 102nd Precinct, which covers Richmond Hill, decreased by 3 percent; the 103rd precinct, which covers Jamaica increased by 6 percent; the 105th Precinct, which covers Queens Village, rose 8 percent; the 106th Precinct, which covers South Ozone Park inched up by 1 percent; the 107th Precinct, which covers Fresh Meadows, declined by 4 percent; and the 113th Precinct, which covers South Jamaica, remained unchanged.
©2000 Community News Group
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