By Billy Wood
As Western Queens continues to be up against a rise in crime, the local precinct faces struggles of its own.
The 104th Precinct, which serves the neighborhoods of Ridgewood, Middle Village, Glendale and Maspeth, is dealing with a shortage of police officers.
At last month’s contentious 104th Precinct Community Council meeting held on Oct. 19, attendees vocalized concerns for their safety, noting the decreased police presence in the neighborhood.
“Where is the police patrol? I don’t see any police officers or cops roaming around the neighborhood,” one resident said at the meeting.
Captain Juan Moran of the 104th Precinct elaborated on the issue his precinct is facing and expressed his frustration for the lack of officers in the city as a whole.
“There’s a recruitment shortage all over the place. Unfortunately, a lot of other agencies see the value of a New York City police officer and they come here and they advise them,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many cops we, the 104th, have lost to other agencies so far this year.”
Moran also told those at the meeting that it is difficult to recruit individuals to take the exam and even more difficult for them to get through the entire process once they pass it.
Even once these new recruits are in the police force, they go to precincts based on the amount of 9-11 calls, arrests, size of the precinct and number of residents — therefore, it’s uncertain how many will go on to serve the 104th Precinct.
“In the early 2000s the Police Department had almost 41,000 uniform members. Now we’re probably below 35,000,” Moran added.
Another prong to the issue is retirement.
Due to retirement and resignation, the NYPD is expected to lose more than 4,000 officers this year, the New York Post reported.
If the trend continues, the NYPD is slated to lose more cops than they did in 2002 when 3,846 officers left following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
There are neighborhoods that have been experiencing a rise in crime and the city has been taking officers out of their precinct to help out in other areas, including the 104th Precinct.
“[The city is] shorthanded and had to take some of the police from our precinct to work the trains,” Juniper Park Civic Association president, Tony Nunziato, said at the last Town Meeting. “They also had to send some officers to One Police Plaza.”
Nunziato did praise the Guardian Angels for stepping up in their area at Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village following some crimes against the elderly on Oct. 13.
“We were invited into the neighborhood because there have been crimes that this area hasn’t seen before,” said Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels.
Sliwa has also seen more people from those communities sign up to volunteer and join the Guardian Angels.
While the rise in crime and shortage of police officers has affected this area, Sliwa knows “the spirit” of these communities won’t let the crimes continue.
According to the 104th Precinct report, this includes a 29.07 percent increase from the beginning of the year until the week of Oct. 24-30.