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63rd Police Precinct Takes Heart In Dropping Crime Rate

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On a day that was tinged with another tragedy for New York’s finest, 63rd Precinct police officers continued with business, answering questions from Mill Basin Civic Association members about efforts to tackle some age-old problems such as illegal dollar vans and double parking at schools. At the Jan. 10 meeting at American Legion Post, 5601 Ave. N, Capt. Mark DiPaolo told association members about the death of a fellow police officer in the line of duty that day, at the 70th Precinct. DiPaolo explained that eight-year veteran Francis Hennessy, 35, a father of two daughters, collapsed while responding to a false alarm about an armed man at Flatbush Avenue and Farragut Road on Monday evening. Upon arriving at the scene Hennessy fell to the ground with chest pains. He was resuscitated before being rushed to Kings County Hospital. He was transferred to Downstate Medical Center, where he died at noon on the day of the Mill Basin meeting. DiPaolo, who joined the 63rd Precinct just a couple of months ago, explained how his new precinct is making headway against crime. The new captain on the block, who previously served at precincts in Manhattan and Staten Island, announced that there was a 2.8 percent reduction in major crime over the last year. The precinct also had received several police officers over the year, with 105 officers in 2005. That has now risen to 136. Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector Kevin P. McGinn has targeted officers to Kings Plaza Mall, he said. One resident asked what the police were doing about what she described as an escalating problem of dollar vans. “It’s gotten worse. Christmas was horrendous,” said the resident. “You can’t cross the street.” DiPaolo said that while McGinn had given priority to Kings Plaza, he also allocated more officers to East 52nd Street and Avenue U, where the problem of dollar vans seems particularly problematic. “We are giving out a lot of summonses,” said DiPaolo, adding that the police were actively targeting vans for traffic infractions, such as crossing red lights or failing to signal. Drivers who don’t show up in court could have their licenses revoked, he said. Those who are caught driving without a license can face jail time, he said. “We have been arresting these people and taken them off the street,” said DiPaolo. “Granted, they get back out, but it’s a start.” One police unit does weekly busts, seizing six to eight vans each time, and issuing about 25 to 30 summonses, he sad. DiPaolo pointed out that the police cannot assume that just because there are several people in a van that the diver is running an illegal operation. It is not illegal to have several people in a van, but he said it is illegal, for example, for a private van to pick up people at a bus stop. “When we issue a summons, we have to personally observe it,” DiPaolo said. “It is not something we are going to win overnight, but things are going to get better.” Another resident complained of parents’ double parking while picking up kids from Mary Queen of Heaven School, on East 57th Street between Avenues M and N. Cars obstruct driveways and park too close to other cars, the resident said. He pointed out that $1,800 of damage had been done to his car. “When you ask them to move, they cuss at you and say they are just picking up their kids,” he said. There is an additional problem of private vans picking up children, which may be illegal, he said. “This is something we are going to address,” said DiPaolo. “We are going to find out about these vans.” He said that the police can also ticket drivers for illegally parking in front of driveways and fire hydrants. Community Affairs Officer Christine Bastedenbeck pointed out that almost all schools have similar problems. The police must be seen to be even handed, and balance the needs of parents with the legal rights of local residents. “We get it from both sides,” said Bastedenbeck. Nevertheless, the police are committed to solving the problem, officers said. Mill Basin Civic Association president-elect Paul Curiale said that the civic association has excellent relations with the school, and would contact them to see if they could help resolve the issue. Bastedenbeck announced that a program of around 15 to 20 students from Roy H Mann I.S. 78, at 1420 E. 68th St., took part in an after-school program. The program, which was supported by the Bergen Beach Civic Association and 63rd Precinct, is designed to beautify the neighborhood, removing graffiti and teaching kids why marking property is a problem, she said. For more information about Mill Basin Civic Association, contact them at their new email address, millbasincivic@aol.com.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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