New York, NY—Phone scams, ATM scams and the challenge of addressing recurring homelessness were the issues that the community brought to the attention of the NYPD 17th Precinct during Saturday’s Build the Block Safety meeting in Tudor City.
The meeting was hosted by two Neighborhood Coordination Officers, John Lamneck and Christopher Carlucci, who first noted that there was a crime recently that involved ATM Skimming.
ATM Skimming occurs when an individual attaches a phony card reading device over the real card reader for the purpose of capturing financial information from a bank customer's card. The data collected is then used to create “cloned” cards to withdraw money from an unsuspecting customer's bank account.
About five years ago, the NYPD launched a Crime Prevention Program to deter illegal ATM Skimming, which simply consists of one or two small chrome stickers to be placed near the ATM card reader. If the sticker is any way altered or damaged, the bank immediately calls the Precinct.
Michael Zullo, who is a member of the Turtle Bay Association, was the first member of the community to raise concerns about quality-of-life issues. He noted that the number one complaint the Association receives is with regard to the homeless shelter located at the Vanderbilt YMCA on E 47th Street. The Vanderbilt Y signed a contract in September with the Department of Homeless Services to rent 219 of its empty hotel rooms as shelter. Recently, the Y agreed to extend the contract until June 30.
“Everybody wants to help the homeless, nobody is going to speak bad against them,” said Zullo.
But he said that certain homeless individuals are panhandling, loitering and urinating in a nearby plaza.
“Dag Hammarskjold Plaza—they’re panhandling on 2nd Avenue in front of Morton Williams, Dunkin' Donuts, and you have homeless that are sleeping there,” added Zullo.
Officer Lamneck responded by saying that the Precinct has an open line of communication with the Bowery Resource Center, the nonprofit contracted by DHS to operate the Y shelter, and would be sure to convey to the BRC the Precinct’s concerns.
“We are going to look into that complaint, the panhandling in front of Dunkin' Donuts and Morton Williams on 2nd Avenue,” said Officer Lamneck.
Another member of the community, Cindy Buckwalter, expressed frustration that while the Y shelter is available for the homeless, some individuals prefer staying on the street.
“We can’t go to the Y. It’s closed because of the homeless shelter, yet there is a homeless man two blocks from the shelter. But I can’t go to my Y to get exercise, that’s what just blows my mind,” said Buckwalter.
Officers Carlucci and Lamneck both made the point that when they are on patrol and receive a complaint about a homeless individual, they try to build a rapport with the person so that they can help the person understand that they can be better supported in the shelter or the hospital.
Yet another resident, Vered Gordon, said she felt it was important to be more friendly with the homeless, but then she recounted how she was attacked on the bus. That experience was a bit traumatizing.
“I am afraid to walk in the city. I’m afraid to walk at 9 o’clock in the morning, I’m afraid to walk at 9 o’clock in the evening. And I was never afraid to walk in the city,” Gordon said.
Officer Lamneck responded that he is actively working with a 17th Precinct detective to identify who was responsible for the attack by trying to locate possible surveillance footage because the camera on the M15 bus was not in operation that day.
The officers were then asked by a community member if the community can be doing more to address the recurring quality of life issues, such as pressuring the City Council.
Officer Lamneck replied that is up to the community to decide.
“But from our perspective, as police officers, we respond to 911 calls, we try to solve the problems, make arrests if necessary, write summonses and do our job to protect and serve—that is what our job is,” said Officer Lamneck.
“As Neighborhood Coordination Officers, we’re liaisons, we’re here to hear your complaints, and we do our best, within our ability to make that happen.”