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Comissioner reacts to complaints in 105th Precinct

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly reacted to complaints about low manpower at the 105th Precinct by promising to bring in a new pool of officers by January, but he nixed the idea of splitting the precinct in two when he appeared before the community council last week.

The commissioner’s Sept. 25 visit brought cheers and a standing ovation from the few dozen people who came out to the Queens Village station house for the evening meeting, where they praised his leadership while repeating the same concerns they have voiced for years.

“The bottom line is we don’t see cops on the street and when they’re not visible, those looking to play their games play their games,” said Sheila Pecoraro, the president of the 105th Precinct Community Council.

Kelly said staffing levels at the precincts do not reflect the New York Police Department’s expansion over the past decade because more attention has been focused on strengthening specific units such as the narcotics and warrants divisions.

“This type of specialization has been a key factor in the reduction of crime,” he said.

But the 2,500 cadets expected to graduate from the Police Academy in a few months will be deployed in the precincts rather than the special units, Kelly promised.

“You should be getting a significant increase of officers in January,” he said.

Pecoraro estimated about 220 cops are currently assigned to precinct, a number which she said is down from 260 about seven years ago.

Residents were not only concerned about the number of officers on the beat, however, but also the sheer size of the area they cover. The 105th Precinct encompasses Queens Village, Laurelton, Rosedale, Cambria Heights, Bellerose, Floral Park, Springfield Gardens and parts of New Hyde Park, and stretches more than 12 miles from end to end.

“Why is it we cannot get a new precinct, another precinct to take a load off the 105th?” asked Marion Hawkins of Springfield Gardens, the sergeant-at-arms for the council.

Pecoraro proposed that a building already being constructed in Rosedale to house the Patrol Borough Queens South Task Force would be a logical place for the “116th Precinct,” which community leaders have spoken about creating for the past 25 years.

“The building is there already, just put on another one or two floors,” she said.

But Kelly said the expense of creating an additional precinct would be prohibitive.

“It’s not just a building, it’s the cost attending to it,” Kelly said. “It’s more than just taking half the people and putting them in a building.”

Kelly has led the NYPD for the past nine months during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, having already served as commissioner from 1992 and 1994 under former Mayor David Dinkins.

In a general overview of the NYPD’s mission at the start of the meeting, Kelly said the three issues dominating the department’s attention are crime suppression, quality-of-life concerns and vigilance against terrorism.

Crime rates both citywide and in the 105th Precinct are down 6 percent this year, he said, while the city is experiencing a 42-year low in homicides.

“We aren’t going to rest on our laurels, even though those numbers are impressive,” Kelly said.

The homicide rate in the precinct has dropped slightly, falling to seven so far this year as of Sept. 22 — the third highest in the borough — compared to nine at the same time last year. But the precinct saw a precipitous rise in murders in the final quarter of last year for a total of 18 in 2001.

The city has initiated Operation Clean Sweep to target quality-of-life crimes such as prostitution, pan-handling, graffiti and unlicensed peddling.

“If you take care of the little things, then the big things will also be taken care of,” he said.

People can report problems by calling the city’s quality-of-life hotline, 1-888-677-LIFE, a service initiated within the past year which has received 650 complaints from the 105th Precinct, Kelly said.

The department’s counter-terrorism bureau and intelligence division also have grown substantially since Sept. 11, 2001 to combat the threat of further terrorist attacks, Kelly said.

“We’re doing a more effective job at protecting our landmarks.”

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

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