A larger audience than usual turned out to last night’s 61st Community Council meeting. Many, it seems, turned out to challenge Captain Georgios Mastrokostas from the 61st Precinct about problems on their block or with area businesses.
The most contentious part of the meeting occurred when a resident of East 19th Street and Avenue W complained to the captain about the dismissive attitude of police responding to consistent problems on her block. We’ve written before about this block being a haven for graffiti, and the resident stressed that despite numerous complaints police offers appear to have done little. She also said drugs were increasingly a problem, and that she had called police to have them pick up a bag of crack-cocaine she found in the street. She said dealers in cars often come to the poorly lit street to conduct transactions before driving off.
“The block is a hangout spot, an orgy spot, a get high spot,” she said.
The resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said she’s reported problems to 311 and has also attended meetings of the Sheepshead Bay/Plumb Beach Civic Association (where she sought help from the precinct’s community affairs officers), but it has been to no avail.
“I feel as if I’ve done more for the precinct [in documenting these problems and alerting officers] than the precinct has done for me,” she said.
Captain Mastrokostas explained that graffiti is photographed and entered into a database, and when a perpetrator is caught they match his “tag” up with previous violations, increasing his penalty. But besides catching people in the act, there’s little they can do. As for drugs, he told another resident with a similar complaint that officers are trained to spot “hand-to-hand” transactions and make arrests during patrols.
After the meeting, Captain Mastrokostas told Sheepshead Bites he was not too familiar with that block and would take a ride to see the issues first-hand.
A member of Bay Improvement Group also demanded that the 61st Precinct prepare a stronger plan before the summer to deal with so-called “booze cruise” party boats. He said that two more boats are now using the piers, with a third on the way. He estimated that there would be an additional 3,000 to 5,000 people on Fridays and Saturdays “bringing weapons, drugs, and driving home drunk.”
Captain Mastrokostas responded saying that the 61st Precinct would continue its strategy of working with boat operators to ensure safety, as well as dispatch its conditions and anti-crime units to monitor boarding. When boats return, task force and highway units will be making DUI stops to keep drunk drivers off the road.
Still, the resident warned that last year’s plans needed to be bulked up with more manpower in order to reflect the additional number of people using the marina this summer.
“Where am I going to get more man power?” asked Captain Mastrokostas. “Commands are down citywide … There’s no extra man power coming.”
The Community Council itself also started the meeting with a sharp exchange with attendees. Their practice of accepting the prior meeting’s minutes was criticized by community activist Ed Eisenberg, who demanded they be read into the record. Several residents agreed, but the vote continued without the minutes being read. A motion was passed to ensure there would be sufficient hard copies for all in attendance to have the minutes in future meetings. Others also requested that minutes be put online, to which the Council President Yves Etienne said no organization puts their minutes online, ever. Despite objections from the crowd, the council moved forward with the meeting.
The grilling of the captain was more than balanced by praise. Several community members came solely to thank Captain Mastrokostas and the officers of the 61st Precinct for their work.
In turn, Captain Mastrokostas and the Community Council honored four police officers with the “Cop of the Month” award. The officers, Patrick Healey, Charles Senat, Anthony Giampaolo, and Joseph Selitto, were all congratulated for valor and good work in the field.
Healey and Senat were responsible for a February 8 arrest in which a 16-year-old white male was approached by a knife-wielding thug. The perp beat up the victim before making off with his jacket. Officers Healey and Senat were called to the scene and found the suspect just blocks away, wearing the victim’s jacket.
Giampaolo and Selitto were congratulated for their effort in a February 18 arrest, in which two youths burglarized the home of an elderly neighbor. Just days before the youths had shoveled snow for the woman. A neighbor told her later that the kids were seen with some property owned by the woman, and when she called police she said she couldn’t name them but sees them frequently in the area. Days later, in the middle of the night, the victim heard glass break in her home and called 911, who apprehended the same youths and charged them with two counts of burglary.