State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) is enlisting the assistance and resources of the Police Department in order to boost the crime prevention efforts of a grassroots group that patrols the streets of downtown Flushing every night.
In the wake of a string of violent murders there this year, a cadre of dozens of concerned residents led by Michael Chu, president of the Council for Chinese American Associations, began to hit the bricks as an ad hoc civilian neighborhood patrol in the late spring.
Five or six members of the group, which officially kicked off its activities May 24, are dispatched for two hours each evening to patrol the streets between Main Street and College Point Boulevard, hoping to stop the next gruesome murder by virtue of their presence.
On Monday, Meng announced a move to beef up the patrols by connecting them directly with the NYPD, which will provide the group with uniforms and walkie-talkies, and the 109th Precinct. They will have a direct line of contact with the Flushing precinct while out at night.
The announcement followed up on a July 29 letter she drafted to city Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, requesting that the NYPD, and particularly the 109th Precinct, assist the do-gooders.
“We wrote a letter requesting this back in late July after the whole slew of crimes that hit Flushing,” she said Monday. “People were just really uneasy. I think it’s always best to have more police on the street, but considering the economic situation, I didn’t know if it was practical. I thought that was a fiscally sounder way to deter crime.”
Kelly responded to her query in a Sept. 7 letter, and she announced Monday that the 109th is ironing out the details of how to set up a civilian patrol like the active ones Meng said she admires in the 104th and 114th precincts.
“As you correctly observed, participation in the Civilian Observation Patrol Program helps the community and the Police Department develop a strong working partnership,” Kelly said.
One of the key reasons for the group to partner with police, Meng said, is to help limit the members’ liability, but the other purpose is to increase the capabilities and resources of patrollers.
“Basically, what I found out about these civilian patrols is that the NYPD will provide equipment, including walkie-talkies and uniforms, which are effective even just for the visual effect,” she explained. “Worst case scenario: It’s people walking around with a uniform scaring off the bad guys, which is not such a bad thing. At this point in time the community needs to feel that there are people watching over them and that there are people here to deter crime. People are just very scared and nervous these days.”
Volunteers interested in participating in the civilian patrol group are asked to call the 109th Precinct’s community affairs office at 718-321-2250.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cn
©2010 Community News Group
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