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One less deadly weapon on the street - 70th Police Precinct salutes alert and savvy patrolman as cop of the month

At first glance, it looked like a bag with an open container of alcohol, but beneath it was a silver revolver. Recovering the firearm and nabbing a suspect were all in a day’s work for Police Officer Leonard Clarke, but the collar also earned him the 70th Precinct’s “Cop of the Month” award recently. The incident unfolded on New Year’s Eve, when Clarke, who is assigned to the precinct’s hot spot conditions unit, observed three males on the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Vanderveer Place with what looked like an open container of alcohol. “It’s one of those quality-of-life issues where 15 years ago we may have just driven by, but now we don’t,” said Inspector Tom Harris, commander of the precinct. While Clarke was trying to identify the perpetrator, the suspect threw the bag on the ground and Clarke saw a silver handgun. The perpetrator then pushed Clarke and started to run. Clarke gave chase for two blocks before making the collar. The male was placed under arrest for criminal possession of a weapon. Further investigation revealed that the perpetrator was on parole for a murder committed in 1997. Harris explained that hot spots are areas just beyond the precinct’s impact zone, which are areas targeted for more police presence because the crime rate is higher. “When we started getting a great reduction of crime in the impact zone, we started seeing a little more crime in the surrounding [hot spot] areas, so we put these guys in the outskirts of the impact zone,” Harris said. For Clarke, a two-year veteran and Brooklyn native, it was his first “Cop of the Month” award. “I always wanted to be a cop when I was younger. I had the buzz for it,” said Clarke. Clarke said he took the test to be a cop when he was 17, but didn’t think he would ever be one. However, when he was 21, he got the call to join the NYPD and has been loving it ever since. “It’s great to be a cop in the neighborhood where you grew up,” said Clarke, who is the first in his family to join the ranks. “My favorite thing is basically being able to help people. Believe it or not, it’s the littlest stuff that makes me happy – like one night just helping a lady carry the groceries into her house. It makes you proud helping people,” said Clarke. Clarke said he thought that being a police officer would be more complicated, but credited his sergeant for teaching him well. “It’s about being yourself and doing what you can. It’s New York, so you expect the worst of everybody, but it’s not so bad,” said Clarke. “It’s something to be proud of. To be the first cop in your family is a big accomplishment. To go home at the end of the day and realize that you’re really protecting the largest city in America is a great feeling,” he said.

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