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Deputy Inspector to Lead 70th Pct.

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Five years almost to the day he stepped into the 70th Precinct as a fresh-faced, recently promoted captain, Deputy Inspector Thomas Harris has once again graced the doorstep of the Lawrence Avenue stationhouse; this time as commanding officer. Upon the announcement of Inspector Robert Richard’s retirement last week, Harris, a Brooklyn native, was moved to the head office of the 70th Precinct, right back where he started in 2001. “I’m very glad to be back home in the 70th Precinct with the hardworking men and women who continue to reduce crime and increase the quality of life here,” said Harris Tuesday as he re-acquainted himself with the command. Harris was an executive officer at the 70th Precinct for just over a year when he was promoted to the commanding officer slot at the 76th Precinct in Carroll Gardens. Following record-setting crime reductions – as well as a year without homicides – he was transferred to the 78th Precinct in Park Slope. Word came down about his move to Flatbush late Thursday, when Richard decided to retire after 25 years of service to the NYPD. Richard left the 70th Precinct with a 7.4 percent drop in crime that included a 20 percent reduction in burglaries and a 27 percent drop in grand larcenies or thefts of $1,000 or more. Robberies were also down by one percent. Under Richard’s leadership, the number of shootings in the command fell by roughly 33 percent, according to statistics. Despite all of this, one of Richard’s last decisions was to create a second Impact Zone with the 150 new officers that were assigned to the stationhouse. In earlier interviews with this paper, Richard said he never saw the zones as a detriment to the community. “It’s just the opposite,” he said. “If I had 300 new officers, I would make four zones. It’s not a negative thing. It’s making policing more effective by concentrating police officers in one area. It’s the same concept as putting a cop on every block.” “You can never run out of reductions,” he said. The 78th Precinct, Harris’ last command, saw a 2.3 percent drop in felony crime, with steep reductions in burglaries. Harris said that he hopes to continue the great success that Richard steered the precinct toward during his nearly three years as commanding officer. “We certainly have enough resources to continue to bring crime down in the precinct as well as the flexibility to move those resources around when needed,” Harris said. Joining Harris on his first tour of duty as commanding officer is Executive Officers Captain Michael Ricciardi, who served as executive officer under Harris in the 78th Precinct, and Captain George Mastrokostas. As this paper went to press, attempts to reach Richard were not returned. Richard left during one of the saddest times in the precinct, following the deaths of two cops – one by a bullet and the other by a brain aneurysm while responding to a 911 report. Both men died within just weeks of each other. Some noted that it may have been the tragic deaths of Police Officers Dillon Stewart and Francis Hennessy that encouraged Richard to seriously consider retirement. “No matter under what circumstances he made his decision, I have the utmost respect for Inspector Richard,” said Ed Powell, the chair of the 70th Precinct Community Council. “He was a great guy and we’ll miss him.” Harris, Powell noted, was the perfect choice to take the reigns of the precinct after Richard’s departure. “When he [Harris] got the command of the 78th Precinct, I was envious of the 78th Precinct,” said Powell. “He’s a great guy who already knows the command, the people, the shop owners and the merchants. I think that working with him again is going to be a wonderful experience.”

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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