Crime rises amid 104th precinct shortage

By Billy Wood

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104th Precinct in Ridgewood. Photo: Google Maps.

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.

Fallen NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen honored with street co-naming

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Community remembers Detective Brian Simonsen at a street co-naming in his honor.

Family, friends and the community at large gathered in Richmond Hill on Saturday to honor the life and career of NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen.

A brand new street sign that reads, “Detective Brian Simonsen Way” was unveiled at the intersection of 118th Street and Jamaica Avenue, in the heart of the 102nd Precinct — where he served his entire career for 19 years.

In 2019, Simonsen was killed in the line of duty while responding to an armed robbery in-progress at a T-Mobile store in Richmond Hill.

Although his life was cut short at 42 years old, he continues to be loved and admired by many for his devotion to the precinct and the people he served.

“We ask so much from our officers; we ask them to unflinchingly put themselves between the threat and the threatened. Brian answered that call,” said Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell.

“Co-naming this street is a small gesture for a great man that offered his life for New York City. We owe a debt we can never repay,” she continued. “Still, this ensures that future generations will forever know the legacy of a man who dutifully served his city. They will see the name of a courageous officer and learn the story of how he lived, remember the life of his service and know the will of a protector of this city.”

Upholding his well-known, passionate work ethic was Detectives Endowment Association President Paul DiGiacomo, who pointed out that Simonsen wasn’t even assigned to work at the time of the incident, but went into work anyway because of his “dedication, knowledge and experience.”

“He went back to work to serve the people of his city, and that cost him his life. He will always be a legacy in the New York City Police Department and in the DEA,” DiGiacomo said. “He was a true hero, a true mentor to many and he’s dearly missed by the DEA and his family.”

District 29 Councilwoman Lynn Schulman, who represents the Kew Gardens and Richmond Hill neighborhoods, saw the street co-naming in Simonsen’s honor as a long-awaited achievement, as her predecessor, Karen Koslowitz, put in the legislation for it, and her own office brought it over the finish line.

She commended his loyalty to the 102nd Precinct and the courageous work he did for the community.

“[Simonsen] rose through the ranks from uniformed patrol to detective and was loved by everyone in the precinct and the community. Detective Simonsen represented the best of the NYPD,” Schulman said. “The street sign…will forever remind people of the hero he was, and let everyone know he will never be forgotten.”

Known for his positivity and cheerful personality, Simonsen was nicknamed “Smiles” by his loved ones.

He also had a great love of animals, which led the NYPD to name a K9 officer serving in counterterrorism after him, by the name of Simo.

K9 officer Simo, named in honor of Simonsen.

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz commended Simonsen’s wife, Leanne Simonsen for her strength and leadership when it came to starting a foundation in her husband’s name.

The Detective Brian “Smiles” Simonsen Memorial Foundation continues to keep his legacy alive by giving scholarships to students and financial assistance to families and businesses in the Riverhead community, where the Simonsen family resides.

The foundation has “also assisted in vesting Police K9 dogs and are expanding in assisting animal rescues,” according to its website.

Leanne Simonsen expressed her gratitude to various members of the Queens community, as well as her NYPD family for always being there for her.

Leanne Simonsen said that the 102nd Precinct has become “like family.”

“We’re all going through the same thing, and we lift one another up when we’re at our lowest,” she said. “I can call them any time I need. This is so special to me, the family, friends of Brian and the 102.”

“The 102 Precinct are family — old, new, I love them all. Today is for us and to always remember Brian and keep his name alive.”

NYPD addresses ‘Ghost Car’ epidemic

The New York Police Department, in an effort led by Mayor Eric Adams, is cracking down on vehicles with illegal, fake, paper plates.

These so-called “ghost cars” — vehicles with counterfeit and illegal counterfeit license plates — have been linked to vehicular assault, robberies, and numerous other crimes.

This announcement followed a recent fatal crash in Bedford Stuyvesant, which killed 67-year-old Lynn Christopher and injured four others, on June 26. Only one among numerous dangerous incidents connected to these illegal vehicles, these deaths have led to emotional responses from numerous elected officials.

“Five people were struck that day, an eight-year-old boy still fighting for his life,” Adams said in a press conference on Tuesday, July 5. “It was one of the worst forms of lawlessness and cowardness, what we witnessed on that day, and that is why we are sending a very clear and loud message on pursuing this battle that we are in.”

Ghost cars are decreasing the quality of life for law-abiding New Yorkers by taking street parking spots, avoiding tolls, and being linked to violent crime.

“Ghost cars often park illegally causing the quality of life concerns that hinder the flow of traffic, block driveways, fire hydrants, and even handicapped ramps,” said Kim Royster, chief of the NYPD’s Transportation Bureau. “And certainly it’s not hard to believe that masking the identity of a vehicle in this way is an enticing idea for someone who might want to be planning a terrorist act.”

The term ghost car borrows itself from that of “ghost gun,” unserialized and untraceable firearms that can be bought online and assembled at home.

“Ghost guns can’t be traced, ghost vehicles can’t be traced. And we know if we don’t get them off the streets, just like ghost guns, they become a weapon of death for our innocent New Yorkers,” Adams said.

While paper plates are not a new issue in New York City, they have become a focus of the NYPD. This year 16,448 tickets have been issued to drivers for using illegal or obstructed license plates as of Sunday, July 3, 2022. Officers are now being encouraged to be more aggressive when they see any suspicious license plate or paper plate.

The city Sheriff’s Department seized 54 cars with fake license plates in upper Manhattan on Monday, July 11 — a move that Adams and Sheriff Anthony Miranda say is simply the start.

“We will follow the mandates of Mayor Adams and deputy mayor [Phil] Banks to work collaboratively with other agencies to keep our communities safe,” Miranda said in a statement.

NYPD Detective memorialized with overpass renaming

Governor Hochul has signed legislation to rename the Long Island Expressway overpass located at Francis Lewis Boulevard and Horace Harding Expressway as the “Detective Anastasios Tsakos Memorial Bridge.”

By passing this legislation, the Department of Transportation can proceed with the design and installation of signage.

“This new law and signage will help memorialize Detective Tsakos and his heroism by renaming the Francis Lewis Boulevard LIE overpass in his honor,” State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic said. “I thank Governor Kathy Hochul for signing this legislation expeditiously and getting this done.”

Rozic and State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky joined his wife, Irene Tsakos, members of the NYPD, Police Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch, and members of the local community, earlier this year, to memorialize the one year anniversary of the death of Detective Tsakos, who was killed in the line of duty.

“The designation of the ‘Detective Anastasios Tsakos Memorial Bridge’ will help keep the memory of Detective Tsakos alive while serving as a reminder of his tragic death in the line of duty,” Stavisky said in a statement. “Detective Tsakos served our city with distinction for more than a decade before his untimely passing. He was a loving son, husband and father who is survived by his wife and two children. I am honored to have sponsored this bill to rename this overpass as a small gesture of gratitude for his sacrifice.”

Tsakos was struck and killed by an intoxicated driver on April 21, 2021. He was responding to a collision on the LIE and was helping direct traffic at the time. The driver fled the scene, but was later apprehended and charged by a Queens grand jury on a 13-count indictment which included aggravated and vehicular manslaughter.

A resident of East Northport, Long Island, he served 13 years with the NYPD as a highway officer with Highway Unit 3. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of detective. He is survived by his wife, Irene, and their two children.

Over the past few months, several gatherings have occurred to honor the late Detective Tsakos including a plaque and motorcycle sidecar dedication and renaming of the wellness center and gym at Highway Unit 3.

“The heartbreaking loss of Detective Anastasios Tsakos has left a void in our hearts that neither words nor time can ever fill. However, we have an obligation to honor his memory and legacy,” Kim Royster, NYPD chief of transportation, said in a statement. “We must ensure future generations forever recognize the immense sacrifice Detective Tsakos made for the City he served. The renaming of the Long Island Expressway overpass where Detective Tsakos was killed, is one way we fulfill our promise that we make to all members of the NYPD the moment they step foot inside the halls of the police academy; a promise that we will never forget those officers who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Family fun day kicks off July 4 weekend at Victory Park

Just days after New York City Public Schools closed for the summer, kids and families flocked to Victory Park in Woodhaven on Thursday for a community and family field day organized by the NYPD’s Anti Domestic Violence Unit and supported by Community Board 9.

Organizers and supporters of the event, like Community Board 9 Chairperson Sherry Algredo, praised the teamwork and community effort to host the all-day celebration complete with the NYPD’s Sports Unit, the department’s game truck, and many other festivities.

Algredo highlighted the need for a tight knit partnership with the NYPD’s 102nd Precinct, which presides over Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill East, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, and the northern part of Ozone Park.

“It’s very important for the community and the cops to work together because it establishes that trust factor within the community,” Algredo said. “It’s all about community support.”

Community Board 9 sponsored the highly-popular cotton candy machine and a bouncy house in Victory Park.

CB9’s District Manager James McClleland echoed Algredo’s remarks, saying it is “vitally important” to promote cooperation between the NYPD and the community.

The event serves as a precursor to the annual Night Out Against Crime events held throughout the city in August, he added.

He says that the community has been dealing with derelict vehicles, sometimes parked for months at a time and on side streets, often with out-of-state license plates, throughout the district. It’s a combination of education and enforcement, he says, that are needed to combat the quality-of-life issues, including illegal dumping.

“The new commander is making a commitment to get rid of these cars,” McClelland said. “Cars are sitting idling while residents look for open parking spots. It’s all over.”

Meanwhile, a game of cricket was set up for youngsters by the 102 Precinct officers.

Raju Sukhdeo, a member of the NYPD’s 102nd Precinct, and a five-year member of the department’s cricket team, helped teach the globally-played sport to a group of kids at the event.

Formed in 2010, the cricket team consists of both uniformed and civilian members and competes in international tournaments against other police teams.

“Not a lot of people from different cultures are exposed to it,” Sukhdeo said of the sport. “Having to do this is all the more fun.”

Detail details

Dear Editor,
Once again, Mayor Bill de Blasio has done something illogical and unethical. During his inane presidential campaign, which was the biggest joke of the century, he had a police detail drive his family around.
If he wanted to do that, he should have hired a private security service and pay out of his own pocket. That money should be returned to the police department immediately.
If he refuses to repay it, then he should be sued by the city. De Blasio thinks he can do whatever he pleases, but he has been nothing but a thorn in our city’s side since the day he took office. It will be indeed a pleasure to see him leaving at the end of this year.
Sincerely,
John Amato
Fresh Meadows

The new NYPD?

Dear Editor,
If you think that fighting crime is the NYPD’s top job, guess again.
While shootings and homicides in New York City are nearly double their pre-pandemic levels, Mayor Bill de Blasio said “Customer service has to be what the NYPD is about.”
To achieve that goal, the NYPD will hire “community guides” at all 77 police precincts to greet visitors at the door. This new program will cost taxpayers $5.7 million a year.
Our mayor is doing this because he’s upset by the “gruff & dismissive” attitude toward the public. Even though New Yorkers fear for their safety, de Blasio wants cops to act like Walmart.
Instead of hiring greeters, why not hire more cops to reduce crime? New York’s Finest serve their “customers” – law-abiding residents and taxpayers – by risking their lives daily to protect us.
If they are sometimes “gruff & dismissive,” perhaps it’s because de Blasio and other “progressive” political leaders don’t respect them. Getting pelted and spat at by “peaceful” protesters may impact attitudes.
I urge our elected representatives to halt this insanity. But if they don’t, I’m sure our likely next mayor, Eric Adams, a former cop, will pull the plug. He values public safety above “customer service.”
Sincerely,
Richard Reif
Kew Gardens Hills

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