Sunset Park’s 72nd Precinct is getting its own Civilian Observation Patrol (COP)—the first in the city to focus on the Asian community and the fourth to be launched in the NYPD’s Patrol Borough Brooklyn South.
The all-volunteer Brooklyn Asian C.O.P. is currently comprised of 15 Asian American men—no women have yet signed up and gone through background checks and training, although more recruits are being sought—whose responsibility is to be another set of eyes and ears for the local precinct, providing reports of any suspicious and criminal activity while helping to bridge the cultural and language gap between police and the Asian immigrant community.
“We just want to try to make the streets safer,” said Louie Liu, chairperson of the Brooklyn Asian C.O.P. “We just want to watch and make sure there is no trouble and try to help do something better.”
COP volunteers currently speak English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Fujianese and Toisanese.
“The culture is changing and it is important that the community feels they are working in partnership with us,” explained Captain James Grant, commanding officer of the 72nd Precinct. “Having a COP is beneficial towards getting residents to feel better interacting with us. Then, once there is a success story, we can acknowledge them and build [even] more trust and outreach.”
Successful neighborhood watch groups have been around New York City for years; in Brooklyn, there are two COPs, called Shomrim, serving the Orthodox Jewish communities within the 66th Precinct in Borough Park and 71st Precinct in Crown Heights, as well as another COP in East Flatbush’s 67th Precinct.
The Borough Park Shomrim will be on hand to help support the Brooklyn Asian C.O.P. in any way they need, said BP Shomrim Coordinator Mark Katz.
“We will be working hand-in-hand, so whatever they need to be shown, they can ask us anything,” Katz said. “The biggest challenge [in forming a new COP] is getting the word out to elderly residents about safety precautions, such as not opening their doors to strangers.”
The challenge of earning resident’s trust is one that will have to be tackled day-by-day, noted Denny Chen, a community liaison with the 72nd Precinct Community Council.
“Because it’s something new, everyone has to learn and accept it, then support [will come],” Chen said. “We’ve talked about this for so long and if implemented in the right way, our community benefits. . . We all know that police [manpower] is limited and they can’t be everywhere all the time, so if any serious issues arise, [the COP] can call the precinct directly and help them act quicker.”
The Brooklyn Asian C.O.P. office is located at 720 57th Street and is open from 10 p.m. to 2 p.m. daily. It can be reached in person, by phone at 718-412-9697, or by email to email@example.com.