By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
While many of us have seen flyers for police precinct community council meetings, these sessions are often attended by only a small and dedicated group of concerned citizens.
Regardless of the number of attendees, the meetings are crucial as they serve to develop a partnership between the police and the community, which in turn promotes communication, trust and safety in our neighborhoods.
“These meetings allow us to get information out to the community,” said Capt. Maximo Tolentino of the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn. “We also try to get community concerns that we might not be aware of so that we have an opportunity to address those concerns. A lot of times we're getting feedback on issues that we are not already aware of.”
Recently, the 84th Precinct noticed a rise in instances of unlocked houses being burglarized and alerted neighborhood associations at the community council meeting. The neighborhood associations got that information out to the community at large and as a result, there is more awareness of the problem.
Earlier this month, police arrested a pair of criminals after they burglarized five houses with no signs of forced entry. Initially the cops were forced to let the suspects go for lack of evidence. It was only after the police reached out to Leslie Lewis, community council president for the 84th Precinct, that they were able to produce the evidence they needed to arrest the pair.
The crooks eventually admitted to burglarizing all five houses in Brooklyn Heights, and since this incident occurred, there have been no additional reported burglaries in the area.
"It's the success of the partnership between the police and the community," Lewis said. "It's what happens when an active community and the police pay attention to each other."
In addition to promoting better lines of communication, the community council meetings allow community members to acknowledge and thank the police for their efforts. At the most recent 84th Precinct meeting, Officer Francis Ainoo was recognized as February’s Cop of the Month after he apprehended a suspect wanted in a shooting. Officer Ainoo spotted the suspect on the street and was able to apprehend him without further incident.
“Officer Ainoo is the kind of officer you want out there,” Tolentino said. “When Francis is out there, he’s looking out for the best interest of the community. I don’t think this will be the only time we’ll commend him.”
When police and the community make themselves available to each other, it helps create a positive atmosphere and mutual respect between the two groups.
“Anytime you know some of the officers by name and get to know them it’s a definite plus,” Boerum Hill Association President Howard Kolins explained. “I think it helps to make them more approachable and encourages us to raise issues they might not have already caught on to, and it’s good to talk directly about an issue.
“I won't hesitate to send an email out to them with specific incidents. I'll tell them the time of day, location, description and it helps them to respond. We're lucky to have such a good relationship with the 84th Precinct.”