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First Meeting, Full Plate

Safety Concerns Highlight First CB14 Meeting Of The Year


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Floyd Smith, a Far Rockaway activist, says the beach along the East Rockaway Inlet should be closed permanently for swimming.

Floyd Smith, a Far Rockaway activist, says the beach along the East Rockaway Inlet should be closed permanently for swimming.

At the first Community Board 14 Parks and Public Safety Committee meeting of 2015 on Wednesday night, topics of discussion ranged from crime to swimmer safety.

The commanding officers from the 100th and the 101st Precincts opened the meeting, updating the community on last year’s crime rates, and an update on some current things folks need to look out for.

“It was sort of an up and down year, crime-wise,” said Deputy Inspector William Wynne, commanding officer for the 101, as he reported a slight increase in overall crime – 1.1 percent – for his patrol sector. The biggest two factors were the upswing in shooting incidents and a rise in domestic violence.

“Just to give you an idea of how domestic violence has grown in the precinct, just in 2009, five years ago, domestic violence comprised about 13 or 14 percent of the felonies,” he said. “This year it was 27 percent.”

In response, the 101 has expanded its domestic violence team from three officers to six — the largest team of its kind in Queens South.

A spike of 11 shootings took place between July 4 and July 28. Wynne said the 101 was placed into a summer violence reduction program at the end of July, which enabled officers to work overtime to cover additional sectors in the precinct and improve police response time. The program helped limit the number of shootings to five for the remainder of 2014.

In February, the 101 got 30 police officers who were trained through the Partner Officer Program (POP), connecting them better to the community than officers had been in recent years.

“They were able to get a field training that was similar to what I got 20 years ago,” Wynne said.

Twelve additional officers have been added to the 101, bringing the officer total within the precinct to 192.

CB14 member Karen Sloane Payne questioned Wynne about the supposed NYPD “slowdown” in which officers are writing fewer summonses and arresting fewer people in response to a lack of support from Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“For us, there is no slowdown” Wynne responded, stating that two days after Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were killed, the 101 took nine gang members into custody — two of whom had guns.

The 100th Precinct ended 2014 slightly down in crime, with five fewer total crimes than 2013.

100th Precinct commander Capt. Craig Adelman said there was an increase in rapes, grand larcenies and grand larceny autos for the year. Each of the five rapes, he said, were acquaintance rapes.

The precinct had 12 shootings in 2014, up from nine in 2013, 2012 and 2011. Adelman said of the 12 shootings, 11 were gang-related. Gang violence continues to be a concern across the peninsula. The victims and suspects of these shootings, Adelman said, are all young, between 15 and 25 years old. Additionally, gun arrests increased by 225 percent, with 26 in 2014 versus 8 in 2013.

“The biggest issue is public information,” Adelman said, about combating gang violence. “We need the tips. They could be anonymous. People do see what happens, but because of the gangs, they worry about retaliation.”

On the less violent side, there is an uptick in car break-ins, especially on the west side of the peninsula.

Over the last several weeks, Adelman said there has been a rash of these crimes, and maintains that locking your car is a big prevention tip. He said modern criminals don’t break windows, they just see if a car is unlocked.

However, one resident said at the meeting, even if your car is locked, there may be a danger, as there are reports of a possible criminal who has a device that can actually unlock cars.

CB14 member Kelly Brooke said her car’s been broken into twice when she’s certain she locked it and there’s no evidence of tampering. She also said people in the area heard beeping as if someone was using a remote to unlock cars up and down the blocks.

Adelman responded that this is something that’s only been brought to his attention in the past few days and they’re looking into it and plan to release a community alert.

Next, the committee heard a presentation from Floyd Smith, a Far Rockaway activist looking to have the beach along the East Rockaway Inlet closed permanently for swimming.

Smith got the city to install signs around the dangerous riptide area after three girls drowned in 2001. The signs aren’t enough, he argued, people ignore signs and it’s costing lives.

“I recommend, I hope you agree, that we restrict swimming in the channel,” Smith told the committee. “It’s only about 600 yards long, 100 yards wide, from the [Atlantic Beach Bridge] to [Beach] 32nd Street. That’s the proposal I’m making.”

Some committee members were less than receptive to Smith’s suggestion.

“Statistically, Rockaway Beach is probably the safest beach with lifeguards,” John Cori, a committee member, said.

“Do you know how many people have been killed in the East Rockaway Channel?” Smith countered.

“I’d say four, according to your paperwork,” Cori said.

“I’d say 50,” Smith said. “Fifty in the last 10 years.”

Cori asked for proof, which Smith was unable to provide. A key obstacle in figuring out how many total deaths have occurred at that inlet is the way NYC Parks records its statistics. Only drownings that occur while lifeguards are on duty are recorded and released to the public. The three girls who drowned in 2001 were wading in the water in the morning, before a lifeguard was present.

Smith said he has a Freedom of Information Act request filed with NYC Parks to get a full list of drowning statistics.

“We know that if we fight to have part of the beach closed, most likely it will never be opened again,” Payne said. “Can we fight instead for a jetty or whatever mitigation is necessary? A lot of people may have moved over there or live [between Beach 3rd Street and Beach 25th Street] because of the beach. You have a person who runs a concession on [Beach] 18th Street and I’m sure that person’s business would go down if you you ended the use of the beaches.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a jetty on the east end of the inlet years ago, but money ran out before a corresponding jetty could be built on the west side.

Joe McManus, a national advisor for the United States Lifesaving Association, told The Wave in 2012 the city should “strictly enforce a no swimming zone when lifeguards are not on duty.”

“The tide changes four times a day,” he said. “The conditions are naturally dangerous there and they are made worse by the dredging of the Corps of Engineers to keep the inlet open. That dredged inlet is narrow and deep and it makes the natural current that much worse.”

Cori mentioned restricting swimming unless lifeguards are on duty, or working with NYC Parks to increase lifeguards in the area.

Smith said that still wasn’t good enough, that it took him two years going back on forth with NYC Parks just to get signs put up around the beach.

“There are other answers to this problem. There’s more answers than just flat out telling me we need to close the beach,” Committee Co-Chair John McCambridge said. “I think we need to reach out to the communities and get their input.”

The committee said it would reach out to civic groups in the area as well as NYC Parks and revisit the topic down the road.

Smith is planning a tree planting in memory of the three girls over Memorial Day weekend. He added that Wynne has agreed to provide him with dummies he could use to publicly demonstrate the danger of the current around the inlet.


Precinct commanders William Wynne (101st Precinct), and Craig Adelman (100th Precinct), took questions from those in attendance at the first CB14 of the year on Jan. 7.

Precinct commanders William Wynne (101st Precinct), and Craig Adelman (100th Precinct), took questions from those in attendance at the first CB14 of the year on Jan. 7.

CB14 member Kelly Brooke (right), says the recent surge in car break-ins could be due to new technology thieves are using to get into locked cars.

CB14 member Kelly Brooke (right), says the recent surge in car break-ins could be due to new technology thieves are using to get into locked cars.

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