Sanders hands meeting on crime over to chief of staff

Donovan Richards (r.) hosts a crime summit with Joseph Courtesis, commanding officer of the 105th Precinct. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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Donovan Richards’ political aspirations got a bit of a boost last week when his boss, City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton), handed over the reins of a crime summit he had convened to his young chief of staff.

“I’m going to leave and let him take over,” Sanders told the two dozen or so community members who attended the meeting at the Ridgewood Savings Bank on Merrick Boulevard to discuss their concerns with Deputy Inspector Joseph Courtesis, commanding officer of the 105th Precinct. “I think he’s ready to do some City Council stuff.”

Earlier this month, Richards, 28, registered a campaign with the state Board of Elections for the Council’s District 31 seat, which Sanders will be term-limited out of in 2013.

The district currently covers Rosedale, Laurelton, Brookville and Springfield Gardens, but that may change when the Council’s districts are redrawn before the election.

Richards, who first met Sanders nine years ago at a gun violence event after a friend of his was murdered, said he and the councilman were working to repeat a successful gun buy-back program from a few years ago that netted 919 firearms in a matter of hours.

“We’re calling on [District Attorney Richard Brown] to do another gun buy-back,” he said, explaining that the NYPD has offered to contribute a portion of the funding for the program, but its success would depend on getting the DA’s office on board.

“The councilman is asking leaders to put their money where their mouth is this budget year,” he said. “We can’t waste time while young people are dying.”

Richards said he was also in support of Courtesis’ request for an impact zone within the 105th Precinct, covering 243th Street and Merrick Boulevard in Rosedale, as well as Linden Boulevard and the Campus Magnet Complex in Cambria Heights.

An impact zone is an area that the NYPD floods with new officers on foot patrol to combat concentrated crime.

Courtesis said that although the department has lost nearly 7,000 officers since 2000, the 105th has fared well percentage-wise, with 196 officers this year, down only four officers from 2008.

He did say, however, that impact zones in the adjacent 103rd and 113th precincts may be having a displacement effect, driving criminals into the 105th.

“That might be having an impact on us,” he said. “Citywide crime is starting to creep up a little bit, and it’s happing in our community as well.”

Since the beginning of the year, major crimes in the 105th, which stretches from Rosedale in the south to Glen Oaks in the north, have been up 26 percent over the previous year, with the sharpest increase recorded in grand larcenies.

“Some problems I can handle by putting more boots on the ground,” he said, although he explained that in the case of burglaries, “deployment won’t help. I need education.”

The deputy inspector advised community members to be aware of scanning machines attached to ATMs that are being used to steal people’s identities, and to call 911 if they see suspicious people in their neighborhoods.

“You guys know who belongs on that block better than we do,” he said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Posted 2:29 am, March 29, 2012
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