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Richmond Hill citizen patrols take aim at area crime

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Nine years ago members of the Richmond Hill Block Association contacted police officers from the 102nd Precinct in an attempt to forge a partnership to reduce the overall crime rate in the area.

The result, according to Block Association President Simcha Waisman, was a specially trained group of local residents who together regularly patrol their community a maximum of seven times per week during the night to help police cut crime. The initial volunteers' goal was to reduce home burglaries in Richmond Hill, which used to number eight or nine during a four-day period, Waisman said.

"Our main goal was to bring police into the community and the community into the police," Waisman said. "We are the eyes and ears of the Police Department."

Waisman said he and the other 27 volunteers use their own cars to patrol the areas from Lefferts Boulevard to Jamaica Avenue to the east, 108th Street at Jamaica Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard north to 83rd Avenue. He said the groups drive their own vehicles to avoid detection, an element Waisman said is invaluable in nabbing criminals while they are committing their acts.

Volunteers, who sometimes check out noisy bars and relay calls to police about high music levels emanating from these venues, also investigate incidents in Forest Park, Waisman said.

Several messages left for police officers at the 102nd Precinct for comment were not returned.

Waisman said volunteers set out on any given night and immediately divide into two teams. He said they drive around their communities and report any suspicious behavior to a person at home who then notifies the Police Department when a crime is in progress.

According to Waisman, time is the most important element of his two team's pursuits. The volunteer patrols often take criminals by surprise when the culprits question how police arrive quickly at a crime scene they thought was safe from city authorities, he said.

Waisman said volunteers also offer repair and safety services to people whose cars have broken down.

"Our goal is to get our community to be a better community," Waisman said.

Volunteers use spotlights, walkie-talkies, flashlights, night vision binoculars, a sound-tracking system and flares in their pursuit of criminals, Waisman said.

Waisman said the partnership receives the majority of its funds from the state and a smaller portion from the volunteers.

Crime during the past 10 years in the 102nd Precinct has fallen, according to Police Department statistics. The number of rape incidents has fallen by 15.3 percent, robberies by 79.4 percent, felony assaults by 40.6 percent, burglaries by 74.6 percent and auto thefts by 81.3 percent, the statistics show.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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