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Take 104th Pct. cops out of the ballgame: Residents

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Instead of computing batting averages and ERAs, community leaders in the 104th Precinct are solving a different sort of math problem whenever the Mets play at home.

If there are 149 police officers in the precinct and some of them are assigned to Shea Stadium for every Mets game, how many does that leave to watch the streets?

Not enough, they say.

Robert Holden, the president of the Juniper Park Civic Association in Middle Village, has launched a vocal community campaign to protest the New York Police Department’s practice of deploying officers from borough precincts to Shea Stadium whenever the Mets play a home game.

“They should have security, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the neighborhood,” Holden said Monday morning in a phone interview.

He presented his stance at the May 8 meeting of Community Board 5, where members of the board pushed the issue by toting signs that read “Don’t take our cops out to the ballgame,” which are now taped to windows and storefronts around the area.

Community leaders have long insisted staffing levels at the 104th Precinct are too low, a complaint that grew even louder two months ago when only 10 rookie officers from the Police Academy were assigned there—fewer than any other precinct in Queens.

By drawing manpower from the 104th Precinct and elsewhere in Patrol Borough Queens North—which also includes the 114th, the 108th, the 109th, 110th, 111th and 112th—the Mets games only exacerbate an already dire situation, Holden contends.

“With 149 cops we can’t afford to lose any cops,” he said. “Our neighborhoods can’t sustain that.”

Holden said the NYPD sends between 65 and 80 officers to Shea Stadium during every Met game.

Deputy Chief Ed Cannon, the second in command at Patrol Borough Queens North, said the Police Department has increased the number of officers posted at Shea Stadium as part of its anti-terrorism efforts.

“Certainly our coverage of Shea Stadium has become more important since the events of Sept. 11, and the Police Department would be remiss if we didn’t enhance our security at a public venue where upwards of 55,000 can be in attendance at any given time,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday.

But he added, “The one thing I can assure the community of the 104th Precinct is that we never leave them with less resources than they need to have the area effectively policed.”

Holden said the community is asking the team to help foot the bill for some of the NYPD security to allow more officers to remain on their home turf.

“The Mets are a money-making operation, they have a $100 million-dollar player payroll,” he said. “For the price of a minor leaguer, they could at least help the city out in paying for a little more of their security.”

But Dave Howard, the Mets senior vice president, said the team already finances the security within the stadium and has no control over the NYPD’s policy on policing baseball games.

“We have the obligation under our lease to supply security for the stadium itself, which we do at a substantial cost to us,” Howard said Monday. “We do not operate the parking lot and certainly we do not control the surrounding neighborhoods. That’s an area that’s under the control of the city, and the city has the responsibility to secure it in the manner that they deem appropriate.”

The Juniper Civic is teaming up with COMET (Citizens of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together) to form a petition campaign aimed at convincing Mayor Michael Bloomberg to provide adequate manpower for the 104th Precinct.

Holden also said he hopes to pressure the City Council to levy a tax on the Mets and other groups that hold similarly large events, which would be used to cover the city’s security costs.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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