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Neighbor to Neighbor: Civilians help control crime in SE Queens

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No one likes to think about dangers that might occur in the future; however, advance knowledge and preparedness can sometimes prevent or minimize problems that might lie ahead.

Thanks to the determination of the New York Police Department, government officials and dedicated civilian volunteers, the streets of our communities are so improved that many people seem to have forgotten what it was like to be afraid to go out, night or day; however, the streets are not yet totally crime-free. People also seem to have forgotten how many children died as a result of stray bullets.

We want our streets to remain safe and become even safer. We need everyone’s help, and joining a civilian patrol is one way to keep the community safe. On Jan. 7, about 30 people accepted the invitation of Arthur Wallace, coordinator of the Rosedale Civilian Patrol, to attend a meeting at the very cooperative Hillside Manor Comprehensive Care Center, at 188-11 Hillside Ave.

Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton), Andrea Duncan, head of his Laurelton office staff, as well as representatives from several other elected officials, including Jeff Diggs from Councilman Leroy Comrie’s (D-St. Albans) office, were present and supportive.

Also present were some young-at-heart physically challenged ladies willing to help prove Wallace’s statement that, “Anyone can contribute in some way. There are no limitations if someone wants to help the community,” even if it is only to hand out flyers or make phone calls.

The purpose of Wallace’s meeting was to tell us about REACT, an umbrella group of civilian patrols, and to distribute a wealth of safety and health advice. Some of this advice came from the National Safety Council, the American Red Cross and the Hillside Manor Comprehensive Care Center.

Southeast Queens has an insufficient number of civilian patrols. REACT is willing to help communities set up patrols, each of which will be within its own NYPD precinct. To do this effectively, the group will need the support of community councils and area legislators.

Although members will be separate under each precinct, they also will have the ability to work in group. REACT wants to educate people about the necessity to protect themselves. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide home study disaster training free to volunteers, or if you pay for the course you can earn college credit.

The American Red Cross and the National Safety Council also offer many courses. REACT has registered with the Corporation for National Community Services, an organization whose need was evident after Sept. 11, 2001.

Like members of ordinary civilian patrols, REACT members do not get involved in trying to catch criminals; instead, they act as the “eyes and ears” of law enforcement. If they see or hear about unlawful activity, they alert police.

Although civilian patrol members do not need to join REACT, a $30 annual membership fee would provide a $1,00,000 blanket liability insurance policy through the Metropolitan REACT Policy under REACT International, a tax-exempt organization.

Applicants must attend REACT training meetings, pass an NYPD background check and, if they are to drive, have a valid driver’s license. After successful completion of these requirements, photos must be provided so identification can be issued.

Patrol members will then be required to wear their picture IDs on their outermost clothing, as well as jackets that clearly identify their patrols. Members are prohibited from carrying weapons while patrolling, even if they are licensed to carry a weapon.

In a relatively short time, Wallace conceived and produced this plan for assistance to law enforcement in southeast Queens at a great cost to his personal time and funds.

Wallace said he is most appreciative of the great support he has received from his ever-faithful, including his fiance, Karen, legislators, friends and organizations already mentioned, especially the New York Police Department. The NYPD was represented that night by Dwayne Palmer, Patrol Borough Queens South community liaison, and previously by the 105 Precinct’s Peter Dwyer and Donald Barto, the latter now also in Patrol Borough Queens South command.

To join, please call 1-718-474-0645 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or e-mail RCPartie@AKpcsales.com. Please include your name, address and phone number. For volunteer information or to make donations, visit REACT online at www.REACTCivilianPatrol.org. Together we can make a difference!

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