By Daniel Katzive
Upper West Side commuters may have noticed more police officers than usual in area subway stations lately. Officers assigned to the 20th and 24th Precincts, who normally patrol above ground, have been descending to subway platforms in the neighborhood during rush hours.
Captain Zhen Zhou, the new executive officer, or second in command, at the 20th Precinct, explained that the precinct has a mandate to deploy 16 patrol officers per day over two tours onto subway platforms during rush hour, supplementing the officers of Transit Bureau District 1 who normally patrol the system in this area. Deputy Inspector Naoki Yaguchi, Commanding Officer of the neighboring 24th Precinct, noted last week that officers from his command had also been spending more time underground.
Captain Zhou, who joined the 2-0 this summer from his previous assignment in Brooklyn, presided over the precinct’s Community Council meeting Thursday as Commanding Officer Neil Zuber was unable to attend. Zuber was promoted to the departmental rank of Deputy Inspector from Captain over the summer.
The shift in manpower below ground comes as Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul have announced a move to increase police presence in the subways. In announcing the surge last week, Mayor Adams said “we must address both the perception and reality of safety.” The downside, of course, is that deployments below the streets must come at the expense of manpower on the surface in precincts where staffing numbers remain well-below full strength.
Discussion at Thursday’s Community Council meeting also addressed resident concerns about parking of vehicles on the street near the precinct, particularly cars that have been seized by the NYPD and are awaiting towing to a police lot. Sergeant Sean Pallone, who heads up the precinct’s Neighborhood Coordination Officers program, explained that these were mostly cars that had been seized for illegal plates or had been involved in serious accidents and that the department has reduced towing capacity due to budget cuts. He noted that the 20th Precinct currently has around 10 such cars parked in the neighborhood and that some other precincts have many more.
In terms of overall crime, the numbers have shown some improvement relative to earlier this year. Captain Zhou noted that the 20th precinct has seen weekly declines over five straight weeks. Over the past 28 days, NYPD CompStat data shows declines in most categories of major crime compared to the same period last year (an unwelcome exception is rape, as one such crime was reported over the past month vs. zero during this period last year). On a year-to-date basis, the numbers are still higher across most categories, though the precinct still has zero murders so far this year and zero traffic fatalities.
The next monthly meeting of the Precinct Community Council will be held on November 17, a week earlier than usual to avoid the Thanksgiving holiday.