By Carol Tannenhauser
Three crimes shocked the Upper West Side in the past two weeks, and led New York State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal to request that 25 police officers, lost to the 20th Precinct within the last year through attrition, be immediately restored. The number represents “a 10% overall staff reduction,” a spokesperson said.
“Deputy Inspector Timothy Malin and his team of dedicated law enforcement professionals have fostered a close sense of community between the police and the people they serve, but recent incidents make clear that the loss of these 25 officers is being acutely experienced by the communities who rely on them most,” Rosenthal wrote in a letter to NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill.
Here are the incidents:
On Saturday, October 12th, at approximately 5:30 p.m., an 85-year-old woman was pushed to the ground from behind as she entered her building on West 74th Street near West End Avenue, and robbed of her hand bag, containing $2,000 in cash, earrings worth $1,200, credit cards, and a cell phone. She sustained minor injuries and refused medical treatment. Three days later, two teenage girls, 15 and 16, were arrested and charged with robbery, burglary, and criminal possession of stolen property.
On Thursday, October 17, at 10:32 p.m., a 57-year-old woman was accosted in the scaffolding tunnel on Amsterdam Avenue, between 68th and 69th Streets, by multiple people, one of whom ran up behind her and punched her in the face, while another tried, but failed, to wrest her bag from her arm. The one who threw the punch turned out to be an 18-year-old woman, police said, and she was arrested four days later, and charged with robbery. The other people are still at large.
On Monday, October 21, 2019, at approximately 6:00 p.m., a man was shot in front of 236 West 64th Street, part of the Amsterdam Houses, near a playground filled with families. Before the incident was over, Raymond Johnson, 28, was arrested, escaped, and was rearrested, and charged with attempted murder, assault, criminal possession of a weapon, resisting arrest, and escape. The man Johnson shot was also arrested when video subsequently showed that he, too, had fired an unprovoked shot, police said.
Parents who use the playground — some of whose children were there at the time of the shooting — have begun organizing a group to push for more safety measures.
“The fact that this shooting took place in the middle of the day in an area with many nearby schools and daycare facilities has only deepened the community’s sense of distress,” Rosenthal’s letter continued. “The 20th Precinct does not currently have adequate resources to prevent crime on the West Side, and the NYPD must expeditiously address this situation by immediately filling the positions of the 25 officers who were lost within the last year.”
“I respect Linda‘s opinion and her advocacy for her constituents, but there is no reason to panic,” Deputy Inspector Timothy Malin, commander of the 20th Precinct responded, when presented with the letter. “In all three recent incidents, arrests were made, and major crime is down nearly 10% in the 20th Precinct this year. The Department has minimum manning requirements for patrol, and we still have adequate resources to meet these requirements.”
Malin explained that Assemblymember Rosenthal had requested a standing detail by the playground, “24/7 fixed-post police officers.”
“I did not feel this was necessary considering all suspects from the shooting incident were immediately arrested,” he said, “and we already have two neighborhood-coordination officers that are assigned there, and, on top of that, we are already doing increased directed patrols at that location.”
Malin did note that “[his] current staffing levels would not permit the kind of deployment Rosenthal requested. “Staffing routinely fluctuates in precincts due to attrition, retirement, promotions, etc.,” he said. “Sometimes it dips, but we will ultimately receive more officers from future academy classes as a result.”
The Post, which first wrote about this issue, noted that police headquarters will be adding more officers to the precinct “in the coming months.”
Deputy Inspector Malin will be available for further discussion and questions this Monday night, October 28th, at the precinct’s monthly Community Council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at the precinct house at 120 West 82nd Street. All are invited to attend.