For Captain Robert Conwell, the newly arrived commanding officer at the 68th Precinct, his latest assignment in a long career is akin in many ways to coming home.
A Bensonhurst native, Conwell lived for nine years in Bay Ridge — which, with Dyker Heights and the Fort Hamilton area comprises the precinct’s catchment area — before moving a bridge away to Staten Island.
“I’m pretty familiar with the area and the feel of the community,” he shared during a sit-down in his office at the station house, 333 65th Street. Conwell replaces Deputy Inspector Joseph Hayward, who was transferred to the top post at the 60th Precinct in Coney Island on March 5.
He is delighted, Conwell said, to have returned. “My experience so far has been pretty enjoyable,” he told this paper. “I’m getting to meet all the people in the community I only heard about when I lived here.”
He’s particularly looking forward to the community’s expansive calendar of street activities, not only the festivals that had decades-old roots but the new events, such as Summer Stroll, that are new since his time here. “I’m excited about those,” he said.
Conwell’s career began with the NYPD in Transit District 33 in East New York some 19 years ago, followed by a stint in the 81st Precinct in Bedford-Stuyvesant as as sergeant, where, he said, “I ran the plain clothes anti-crime team.”
His next posting was as a lieutenant at the 23rd Precinct in East Harlem, then an assignment as the special operations lieutenant in the 30th Precinct in West Harlem, before he returned to Brooklyn, where he served as lieutenant in the 60th Precinct.
It was there he was promoted to captain, Conwell recalled, noting that he subsequently served in the 66th Precinct in Boro Park, the 72nd Precinct in Sunset Park and South Park Slope and the 67th Precinct in East Flatbush before scoring his first command here in the 68.
“Coming here,” Conwell said, “I knew I wouldn’t be dealing with as much violent crime [as in the 67], so I have to shift my focus to other things — narcotics, property crimes and quality of life complaints.
“My plans are to tackle narcotics-related issues in the precinct,” he continued. “I believe narcotics drive a lot of the property crime we experience in Bay Ridge, such as burglaries, car break-ins and auto theft. I also intend to focus on quality-of-life complaints — traffic, noise.”
Prior precinct commanders have already clued him in, Conwell added. “Deputy Inspector Hayward [who he said he’d worked with previously at the 60] left me a good running show,” Conwell said. “I also worked about 12 years ago with then-Lieutenant Festino [now a deputy inspector, who was commanding officer of the 68 from 2014 to 2016 before being transferred to head up the detective squad at Patrol Borough Brooklyn South]. I made sure to speak with them both and they gave me a lot of good advice on how to run the 68.”
Conwell, who said he had lived in an apartment on Shore Road during his nearly a decade living in the neighborhood, told this paper that he “really got into running big time” at that time. “Since then, I’ve completed four New York City Marathons, and I’m looking forward to starting running on Shore Road before my shift.
He acknowledged that heading up the precinct would give him a different perspective on the race.
“I’ll see what’s easier,” Conwell joked, “running it or running the show.”