Bensonhurst and Bath Beach are not known as neighborhoods with a great deal of gun violence. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t unsavory characters roaming around local streets with dangerous weapons, law enforcement officials warned.
Cops at the 62nd Precinct had a busy July and August, making 13 arrests of individuals for gun possession, according to Capt. Anthony Longobardi, the commanding officer, who told residents at a Sept. 18 meeting that his officers are working hard every day to make sure the neighborhoods the precinct covers are as safe as possible.
“Cops are risking their lives,” Longobardi told members of the 62nd Precinct Community Council at the organization’s monthly meeting, which took place at the Il Centro Community Center at 8711 18th Ave. Tuesday night. It was the council’s first meeting since June. The group does not meet in July or August.
Longobardi presented several Cop of the Month awards to officers involved in the gun-related arrests.
Police Officers Thomas Macca, Juby Thomas and Stefan Seecharan confiscated two loaded guns from a suspect whom they stopped while he was driving a car in the vicinity of Quentin Road and West 12th Street on June 6.
The suspect failed to signal at an intersection and when the officers ordered him to stop the car, they saw him reach into a backpack, Longobardi said. Inside the backpack, “they saw the handle of a firearm,” the captain added.
The officers quickly took the suspect into custody without a shot being fired. A small amount of drugs was also discovered in the vehicle.
The activity during the summer months included cops arresting a man who shot bullets into a door of a house; an incident in which officers chased a suspect through an alleyway and seized a semi-automatic pistol and marijuana; and a man who was taken into custody for possession of a switchblade and drugs after officers spotted him talking on his cell phone behind the wheel of his car.
Many arrests take place as the result of residents contacting police about suspicious activity they have seen or heard, according to Longobardi. “It’s all about the public and cops working together,” he told residents at the meeting. “You are a part of it.”
Police Officer Thomas Mercado was lauded for an arrest he made while off-duty during the early morning hours of July 28. He was asleep when a suspect attempted to steal a car on his block. When a neighbor tried to stop the thief, he threatened to hit him with a baseball bat. Mercado woke up, ran out of his house and arrested the suspect.
Residents who attended the meeting asked Longobardi to investigate reports of a bike-riding suspect stealing packages off people’s front porches and to crack down on a proliferation of driving schools. “It’s really getting out of hand,” one resident said.
Longobardi, who said he doesn’t have the power to shut down driving schools, urged residents to contact their elected officials. The police “don’t make the laws,” he said. “We just enforce them.”
The captain promised to look into complaints about large groups of people congregating at night and drinking in Garibaldi Playground at 18th Avenue and 82nd Street. The playground is supposed to close at dusk.
Several officers from the precinct’s new Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCO) program attended the council meeting to meet local residents. The program, which the New York Police Department has placed in nearly every precinct in the city, came to the 62nd Precinct in the spring.
Under NCO, cops are assigned small sectors within a neighborhood to patrol and work closely with residents and merchants to solve quality of life issues.
Assemblymember William Colton, a Democrat representing Gravesend and parts of Bensonhurst, attended a recent meeting the precinct had to introduce the NCO cops to the neighborhood and said the session was very productive.
“Most of the issues raised are considered minor. But they were not considered minor to the people who brought them up,” he said, adding that he was impressed that cops took all complaints seriously.
Led by Sgt. Jose Alegre, the precinct’s NCO officers are P.O. Pavel Mashkov, P.O. Edward Boyle, P.O. Jean Innocent, P.O. Jelinson Martinez, P.O. Elias Khan, P.O. Michael Oggeri, P.O. Francisco Acosta, P.O. Danielle Valentine, P.O. Wendy Skupien and P.O. Roman Vilnyanskiy.
All but Vilnyanskiy attended the precinct council meeting Tuesday night.