By Joy Bergmann
Shootings, public pooping and pedestrians’ fears of reckless drivers were among the issues discussed at Saturday’s 24th Precinct Community Council meeting held at the Firemen’s Memorial at 100th Street in Riverside Park.
Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector Naoki Yaguchi kicked things off with a review of 2020’s total crime statistics for the precinct, which encompasses 86th Street to 110th Street, Hudson River to Central Park West.
Looking at the seven major crimes tracked by NYPD, the number of total complaints was down by approximately 9% compared to 2019. However, “we had eight homicides versus two the previous year…burglaries pretty much doubled 201 versus 110…and GLAs [grand larceny auto: vehicle thefts] were up considerably, 77 versus 39 last year,” said Yaguchi. “Unfortunately we finished with nine shootings for 2020 which was a considerable increase [one in 2019]. So for the new year we want to be focused on the violence of the shootings…and the burglaries which mostly consisted of overnight burglaries of commercial businesses and package thefts of goods ordered online.”
The new year also brings a new supervisor, Sgt. Carlos Pappagallo, for the area’s Neighborhood Coordination Officers [NCOs]. Residents may email concerns to him and/or their neighborhood’s specific NCOs; all emails appear on the precinct’s web page.
Yaguchi praised his credentials and shared how Pappagallo and Officer Flores responded to a shots-fired incident on December 3rd. “We had three kids come down to 91st and Broadway and fired a shot at two individuals. They heard the shot and saw the perpetrator running toward Amsterdam…they chased him down and were able to arrest the subject and recover the gun.”
The meeting then turned to questions from residents.
One woman asked about the many 911 alerts popping up on the Citizen app for serious-sounding incidents at 312 Riverside Drive. “What’s going on there?”
“That is an individual that’s basically making fake 911 calls. He actually has been arrested for it,” said Yaguchi, adding that the suspect has mental health issues and 312 Riverside is a non-existent address. “He perceives that something is actually going on in that place. We are working not only with the district attorney, but his defense attorney and his mental health provider to try to keep him busy and cut down on those calls.”
WSR asked about the quantity of moving violation summonses being issued to reckless drivers, especially in light of recent pedestrian deaths. In December, the 24th Precinct wrote 18 tickets for red light violations and 43 for failure to yield to a pedestrian, according to NYPD data. “Do you think that’s an adequate amount of enforcement?”
“There’s no number that I’m like, ‘Oh if we write this many we’re good.’ It’s really based on how many collisions are happening, what type of collisions and where they’re happening,” said Yaguchi. “We have a dedicated traffic team. We monitor week-to-week where the collisions are happening, with specific attention to pedestrians. Then we try to direct the officers to take enforcement actions at those specific locations.” He added that, yes, bike riders do receive moving violations, but that Riverside Park is not an enforcement focus for his officers.
WSR also gave a shout out to the 2-4’s role in recovering Luca, a dachshund that was stolen from outside a market. [Read the thrilling timeline of how community members and police collaborated to find him.]
Multiple residents shared concerns about the area surrounding the 96th Street subway station on Broadway, including aggressive panhandling, drinking, pot smoking and public defecation, especially in the outdoor planters at the station entrance and under the scaffolding at the nearby McDonald’s.
“They’re using that as their public toilets,” said Robert, a resident. “Each morning there are large piles of feces on the sidewalk and around the station entrances. Isn’t that a health hazard?”
“Absolutely. We’ll look into that,” Yaguchi said. “Broadway is a big focus for us. We have a lot of quality of life issues.” He added that when NYPD’s budgets were reallocated, the NYPD’s homeless outreach unit disbanded. “We’re still working with our partners at Goddard Riverside and the Department of Homeless Services, but obviously it’s not as seamless as it was because the unit that specifically dealt with [homeless] issues is now gone.”
A man who identified himself as a resident of a UWS homeless shelter asked attendees not to see all people experiencing homelessness through the lens of criminality.
“I really need [the shelter] to get back on my feet,” he said. “Everybody is not a bad guy…I’m not abusing the resources.”
“We’re not looking to stigmatize or single out all the homeless people,” said Yaguchi. “Our job is just to provide a safe environment.”
So, one woman asked, given the changing NYPD budgets, does he feel he has the resources he needs?
Yes. “Right now, resource-wise, manpower-wise, we’re good,” Yaguchi said. “A new class of recruits should be arriving to us in April…we are good.”