New York Daily News

January 10, 2003

Blue swarm hits streets

Cops flooding 61 trouble spots

By ALICE McQUILLAN
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Police are flooding 61 violent hot spots with hundreds of extra officers in a multimillion-dollar blitz to drive the city's crime rate even lower.

For the next three months, Operation Impact will saturate crime-ridden streetcorners, housing projects and subway stations with cops on the prowl, officials announced yesterday.

"We have to adapt, to develop new strategies, to do more with less and to do it better," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in Brooklyn's 77th Precinct, which had a 41% rise in shootings last year.

He unveiled the plan just before telling the Daily News he may have to lay off as many as 1,000 cops and forgo hiring another 500 this year to cope with the city's budget crunch.

Because the city must keep street patrols at current strength, the ax would fall harder on special units like narcotics and warrant enforcement squads, Kelly said during a meeting with the Daily News Editorial Board.

He said he has to submit a plan to City Hall by Monday.

Operation Impact, which is expected to cost $8 million to $10 million in overtime, began Friday with 800 extra officers hitting the targeted spots. About 1,400 rookies will take over the patrols when the Police Academy class graduates by month's end.

A right to safety

Police Academy staffers and veteran supervisors will keep tabs on the rookies, Kelly said.

"All New Yorkers have a right to a safe place to live, to work, to go to school," Mayor Bloomberg said. "What Operation Impact is doing is... looking to see where we haven't done as good a job as we could."

Overall, crime fell 5.3% citywide last year - but shootings increased by 1.3%.

The city's largest police union blasted Operation Impact as a stopgap solution to a shrinking force.

Kelly raised the possibility of pink slips in response to Bloomberg's demand this week that the department trim another 3% - $94 million - off next year's budget.

The union was quick to draw a link.

"Operation Impact is simply trying to cover up the fact that there are not enough cops on the street and it can become the equivalent of putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound," charged Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

Since Operation Impact began, Kelly said, crime has dropped 50% in targeted areas, with no shootings or slayings.

The hot spots stretch across neighborhoods in 21 precincts, including East New York in Brooklyn, Morris Heights in the Bronx and Jamaica in Queens; housing projects in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and the South Bronx, and 38 subway stations that account for 36% of transit system crime.

With Paul H.B. Shin, Lisa L. Colangelo and Mike Claffey

Push brings hope to tough neighborhoods

Four of the 61 high-crime neighborhoods now under the NYPD's spotlight:

BRONX

Soundview - Gunshots and shrines to victims of violence are all too common on these streets, where Amadou Diallo was killed by police gunfire nearly four years ago, neighbors said.

"In the last two months they had two shootings on that corner," said Christiana Charles, 29, gesturing to Watson and Elder Aves., which she called a popular hangout for drug dealers. "It's comforting to know we'll have more police."

Across the street from a mobile police command post setting up in the area, Cecilia Gaudin, 49, said she thinks the gunplay will subside when more cops arrive.

"Shootings happen during the day, during the weekends," she said. "With a little more patrolling, the drug dealers will stay away and it might make some people think twice before they do something."

Sondra Wolfer and Kerry Burke

QUEENS

Jamaica - Teacher Jennifer Vanover blamed "bad elements" for the robberies and shootings in her neighborhood.

"I'm glad there's going to be more of a police presence in the neighborhood," she said.

"It's definitely going to make me feel safer, especially at night when I'm taking the train and bus home from work," said Diana Stynes, a store clerk from St. Albans. "It'll keep some trouble off the streets."

But student Vanessa Graham had some doubts about putting recent Police Academy graduates out on patrol.

"The last thing we need is a bunch of rookie cops running around here, trying to be heroes when they don't know what they're doing," Graham said. "Haven't enough people got shot?"

Jonathan Lemire

BROOKLYN

Brownsville - Drugs are this neighborhood's biggest scourge, said Evangeline Porter, secretary of the 77th Precinct Community Council and president of the Crow Hill Community Association.

"They sell on the street, in back of cars. They even hide their drugs in garbage Dumpsters," Porter said.

An all-out effort is great, neighbors said - as long as cops keep it up over time.

"The police would come and have the beat officers on, and the dealers would calm down for two or three weeks," said Sarah Taylor, vice president of the association. "The minute they leave, they're back in business. So now, we need a sustained initiative, this is what they're doing and we're very glad about that."

Alice McQuillan

MANHATTAN

Times Square - It's not quite Disneyland yet, say people who work in the heart of the city.

"There are still too many peep shows, prostitutes and drugs," said Sami Ben Mariem, 35, owner of the Port Authority Deli across from the bus terminal. "But it's gotten much better. More police will take care of everything."

Patrols are hunting for the low-level street crime that still plagues the tourist destination from 30th to 52nd Sts. between Seventh and Eighth Aves.

"At night, you get punks, especially when the clubs clear out. But the neighborhood isn't the gantlet it used to be," said Brian Maguire, 40, manager of Smith's Bar on Eighth Ave., as he poured bourbon shots into beer for the lunchtime crowd. "If they want to put more cops out here, then God bless them."