2008-04-11 / Top Stories

Reducing Violent Crime Is Initiative Aim

'Operation Safe Peninsula' Begins April 3
By Miriam Rosenberg

A new program that aims to bring communities and their local police precincts together, in an attempt to stem the rising tide of crime in Rockaway, has been announced by State Senator Malcolm Smith, who kicked off his initiative "Operation Safe Peninsula" on April 3.

Local elected officials, church and civic representatives, along with the commanders of both precincts were invited to take part in the project's initial meeting at the Horizon Care Center in Arverne earlier this month.

"Crime affects us all, regardless of where we live," said Smith in a prepared statement. "But, when law enforcement agencies join with citizens and community organizations, everyone stands to win - except the criminals."

Smith said that there are three basic goals that the program hopes to achieve: to increase community involvement in crime prevention; to strengthen police-community relations; and to focus on family involvement with the young people in the community.

Warren Gardiner, who leads the task force set up for "Operation Safe Peninsula" and "Operation Safe Southeast Queens," told The Wave that the new program is modeled after the Southeast Queens initiative, which Smith spearheaded in 2003.

"We've worked closely with the three local precincts [in mainland southeast Queens] - the 103, the 105 and the 113 [along with] various community organizations [such as] the community board, civics, churches, and concerned citizens to see how we can combat crime and prevent it," said Gardiner. "Also how to bridge the gap between community and police relations and strengthen the family's involvement in crime fighting."

Gardiner said there have been several positive programs that have grown out of "Operation Southeast Queens."

"The more successful initiatives have been a large law enforcement youth summit; the training of community leaders with Patrol Borough Queens South [to teach them] to better deal with interactions with the community and the police, which they can bring back to their constituents; and a community gun drive to spread awareness... to get guns off the streets."

He said that interaction between community residents and police officers is one of the biggest issues they are trying to push.

"There's a lot of mistrust between the community and the police and we try to be the liaison," said Gardiner.

Gardiner, who attends each meeting, said that crime is everyone's responsibility - the community's and the police.

Gardiner also said he hopes to develop or strengthen, for the Rockaways, some of the programs geared toward youth that originated in the Southeast Queens initiative.

"We really want to push something for youth, especially with the summer coming," said Gardiner. The task force is also working with local high schools and community based organizations to get them involved.

Strictly looking at the statistics, the program appears to be working in Southeast Queens, observers say.

While crime seems to be rising citywide, the NYPD's CompStat data - which track major crimes - shows that, as of April 6, in all three precincts of "Operation Southeast Queens" there has been an overall reduction in crime between 2001 and 2007, the most recent available data closest to the start of the program.

Yet, comparing the crime stats for the same time this year to the end of first week of April 2007 - only the 105 Precinct has a decrease in crime. The 103 Precinct and the 113 Precinct both show increases.

As "Operation Safe Peninsula" begins locally, the statistics shows that the 101 Precinct has an overall drop of almost five percent in crime, while the numbers of violent crime - murders, robberies and felonious assaults all have gotten higher compared to this time in 2007.

The 100 Precinct has reported more than a 14 percent increase in overall crimes this year compared to last year at this same time. Among some of those attending the meeting were Captains Thomas Barrett and Brian McMahon, commanders of the 100 Precinct and the 101 Precinct respectively; Barbara Larkin, the president of the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association; and Inspector Timothy Pearson of Patrol Borough Queens South.

"In the months ahead, we will build upon the steps taken today," Smith said in his statement after the meeting. "In addition, I look forward to being joined by other elected officials, community board members, church leaders, and all those concerned for the well-being for the Rockaway residents."

Although no date has been set for the next meeting, "Operation Safe Peninsula' meetings will be held once a month, and the entire community will be invited to attend, Gardiner added.

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