2000-05-20 / Editorial/Opinion

Zero Tolerance

As crime continues to decline across the city, and specifically in Rockaway, it’s important for the local police to reassess the problems and concerns of the neighborhood. The 100 and 101 Precincts have done a good job at reducing crime on the peninsula, but now is the time to decide what are the "new" priorities.

It’s difficult for residents to understand what the priorities are when a police officer is seen "hanging" around a car, ready to write out a ticket as he waits for the time to expire on the meter, while a drug deal is happening less than a block away (and in view of any observant person). As crime stats hopefully continue to fall in Rockaway, it would be nice to see our local precincts put more attention into quality of life issues and drug-related concerns. We understand ticketing is necessary, but should definitely not be the priority.

Summer is quickly approaching and Rockaway is faced with numerous quality of life and drug problems during these months. Now is the time to institute zero tolerance. Whether it is the person that allows their dog to use the "bathroom" on the beach/boardwalk or the low-level drug dealer on the corner, our local police need to clean up the streets of our community.

Drugs are a serious problem. Only a fool would believe that the drug epidemic is limited to one part of our community. You’ll find it in public housing developments like Redfern, Hammels and Edgemere; homes in Rockaway Park and Belle Harbor; business districts like Beach 116 street and Mott avenue; and even in our schools. Drugs do nothing less than destroy the neighborhood and kill our kids. A zero tolerance approach to fighting drugs needs to be community-wide -- not just focused on one part of the peninsula -- but anywhere and everywhere it touches. The message should be… "if you are selling, running or using drugs in Rockaway you will be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." That message is not being heard loud enough in Rockaway.

It wouldn’t be fair to put all the pressure on the police. We, the residents of this community, are partners and need to work hand-in-hand with our local police. This is our community and it’s time to not be afraid to get involved. Indifference, complacency or acceptance of a situation like drugs will only destroy the neighborhood and will at some point touch your life…either directly or indirectly. If you see activity, report it to the precincts. You can do this anonymously, through a letter or phone call. But, be as specific as possible. If you have the license plate numbers of cars used during drug deals, times and locations, names and addresses, whatever might help, provide the info. The more details the police have to work with, the better the chance that they will catch who they are looking for.

If the police tell us that there is a need for more narcotic officers or that the courts are too liberal, then it is our job as concerned residents to get our elected officials involved. If we need more money to fight drugs in our communities, then we need to lobby our elected officials to increase funding or reprioritize spending when it comes to the New York City Police Department. And if it’s the courts and concerns with the conviction rate in drug cases, next time there is an election we must have zero tolerance with liberal judges that let criminals have more rights then the good people of our community.

These are our streets….and it’s time we take them back. Until we do, drugs will continue to poison the fabric of Rockaway. Now our local police have to make the commitment that they will help us accomplish this goal. We understand that the vast majority of our local police are residents of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, but we want them to think of Rockaway as their hometown, where their kids live, when it comes to assuring us the highest quality of life they are able to deliver. We’re tired of being ticketed for expired meters while those involved with drugs have run of our neighborhood.

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