At last week’s virtual Community Board 5 meeting, Officer Michael Berish from the precinct’s Community Affairs Unit said that the plan, called “Safe Passage,” will provide a police presence at the shelter and surrounding areas during the hours of arrival and dismissal.
“This is a community that’s known for walking to school,” he said. “That’s great.”
Berish said police officers will monitor the shelter, be proactive and “try to get ahead of anything and prevent any unfortunate situations from taking place.”
Though Berish said he wished the precinct had a car to put at every nearby school, their resources and staff are very limited.
“We’re losing people to retirement, to protests,” he said. “I wish we could do more.”
At the virtual meeting, Councilman Robert Holden said through a prepared statement that his office has heard many reports of troubling incidents at the shelter at 78-16 Cooper Avenue, including incidents of drug use, harassment, trespassing, attempted sexual assault and threats of violence.
According to Maryann Lattanzio, chair of CB5’s Public Safety Committee, 13 people from the shelter have been arrested as of August 5. The last two arrests were related to “lewd acts at a local park,” she said.
Holden has reached out to the police commissioner and commander of Patrol Borough Queens North, asking them to make sure the complaints are investigated.
“The 104th Precinct has not been exercising its due diligence and filing reports for many of those incidents,” Holden said.
Berish responded that he knows people are concerened with the police presence.
“You see us there all the time, multiple times a day,” he said. “We’re there for many different reasons.”