New York, NY—The Build the Block Safety meeting returned to the Upper East Side yesterday evening at the Ramaz Lower School at 125 East 85th Street where residents had a chance to convey their public safety concerns to their neighborhood coordination officers from the 19th Precinct.

“Build the Block” are strategy sessions between local officers and the people they serve. According to the NYPD, the meetings have two simple goals: identify the public safety challenges of a specific neighborhood and discuss potential solutions.

As specified by the NYPD, Neighborhood Policing divides precincts into four or five fully-staffed sectors that correspond, as much as possible, to the boundaries of actual established neighborhoods. The same officers work in the same neighborhoods on the same shifts, increasing their familiarity with local residents and local problems.

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Last night’s meeting pertained to neighborhood policing in the 19th Precinct’s Sector C, which geographically covers the Upper East Side from East 77th Street to East 86th Street. The neighborhood coordination officers who lead Sector “C” are Police Officers Jerry Maselli and Stephan Koustoubardis.

First, the officers told the approximately 10 community residents in attendance that just yesterday there were a couple of incidents in the 19th Precinct district, one involving a precinct-wide emergency in Lenox Hill.

Apparently, an individual who has stolen property from Prada, an Italian luxury fashion house, was recognized by the store manager at 841 Madison Avenue and East 70th Street. The manager called the police, and when they attempted to place him under arrest he refused. A struggle ensued and the call went out over the police radio, leading to the dispatch of multiple police vehicles. Luckily, the officer only received a slight hand injury.

In another incident, an individual attempted to shoplift clothing items from H&M at East 86th Street and Lexington Avenue. A security guard approached the individual, and according to the officers, the individual pulled out a box cutter.  

Store managers have told the officers that they are fed up with the brazen thefts, but the officers emphasized that they should not be approaching the perpetrators because they risk injury. They should instead call 911. 

The residents then voiced their public safety concerns based on their experiences in the neighborhood, such as what they see as an increase in homelessness in the area. The officers informed the residents that the NYPD, since the city’s 2021 budget went into effect in July, is no longer responsible for homeless outreach. Instead, the Department of Homeless Services is responsible and the 86 officers that previously made up the NYPD’s homeless outreach unit have been reassigned.

Because there has been an uptick in gun point robberies—according to the officers there have been a total of 7 between Sector C and D—the residents asked if there can be more foot patrols in the neighborhood. However, with recent reports of retirements thinning the ranks of the NYPD down to their lowest levels since 2011, combined with no new academy classes because of budget constraints due to the coronavirus pandemic, foot patrols are currently not an option.  

And the residents noted that there has been drag racing happening along 3rd Avenue overnight.

It’s become so frequent its compelled Manhattan state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D) to introduce legislation with Queens Assembly Member Nily Rozic (D), called the Fighting Underground Racing in Our Streets (FURIOUS) Act.

The Senator wrote in an opinion in StreetsBlog that the legislation would give the city the ability to catch on camera drag racers and other reckless drivers who have been gathering overnight, thereby making it easier to enforce state laws against street racing.

The officers noted that the police cannot pursue them as it is NYPD and state policy to err on the side of caution, but they try to get photos of the drivers with their body cameras and then try to identify them.

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