"I try to get out every day," Manzolillo said during an interview at the Queens Village headquarters of the precinct, which runs from Glen Oaks in the north along the Nassau border to Brookville in the south. "It clears my head up and I get to think, plus if I'm talking about an area, it's good to see it."
Of his hands-on style, he said, "if I don't take an interest in it, why should the officers? I tried to set the tone early."
The commander began his career in 1988 at the 83rd Precinct in Brooklyn and then moved on to that borough's 73rd Precinct as a sergeant and later the 67th Precinct as a lieutenant. He subsequently was transferred to the 111th Precinct in Bayside with the same rank.
In 2000 he became a captain and the executive officer of the 105th Precinct, his first stint there, and the following year took over the same position in the 113th Precinct, based in Jamaica. He received his first command in 2001 at Ozone Park's 106th Precinct, where he stayed until being appointed to head the 105th Precinct earlier this year.
Manzolillo said he viewed himself as a "utility player" for the Police Department, one who has been plugged into holes as needed during his career and moved around more than his peers. He said he did not mind the transfers, however.
"You see different crime, different attitudes, different quality-of-life problems," he said. "It's good to become well-rounded. And you don't get stale."
Manzolillo took the reins from Deputy Inspector Michael Bryan, who served as the 105th's commander for slightly more than two years before moving on to Queens Patrol Borough South's headquarters as special projects inspector.
"He was a mentor, he was a teacher, he was a confidante," Manzolillo said of Bryan, both his former boss and predecessor. Comparing himself to Gomer Pyle and Bryan to John Wayne, he said "unfortunately, I've got to follow someone like that. I'll do the best I can."
Officers from the 105th said their new commander placed an extra emphasis on the mapping and analysis of crime, which he has a reputation for lowering wherever he goes, they said. While the 105th is not known historically to suffer from high crime, through May 16 the precinct had recorded a 14 percent reduction in major crimes compared with the similar period last year.
But murders were up 250 percent for the five-month period, from two in 2003 to seven so far in 2004, bucking the overall trend in the precinct.
"What's really alarming is my shootings and homicides," Manzolillo told a recent gathering of the 105th's Community Council, a forum for residents to voice their concerns to police. Using police statistics and his own analysis, taught to him by another mentor, Inspector William Morris, a former commander of the 113th Precinct, Manzolillo and his officers have identified stretches of Linden and Merrick boulevards as "shooting zones" and have begun special initiatives in those areas.
"It's been very successful," Manzolillo said.
The spike in murders is just one challenge the new commander expects to face in the 105th, which is the largest precinct in Queens. He said he will seek help from within his own ranks and from area residents. "I like to get opinions from a wide variety of people, not just my middle management," he said.
"It's a very vocal community, a very strong community. It's very diverse," Manzolillo said.
To keep crime down, he plans to focus on quality-of-life issues such as noise complaints and graffiti and to become actively engaged with the communities under his watch. He recently appointed a sergeant, Brian Minogue, to head the precinct's Community Affairs section, a move that he said again set him apart from other commanders.
Manzolillo said adding a sergeant to the section would give it more clout within the precinct; allow it to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week; and renew the focus on the issues important to area residents.
"Come in and voice your concerns now so we can nip the problem in the bud," the commander said.
Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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