The new head of the 61st Precinct, Captain John Chell, opened the community council’s October meeting by boasting that crime in the precinct had dropped five percent in his first month on the job.
But rather than take the credit, he put the focus on his colleagues in crime-fighting, reviving the Cop of the Month award for officers who’ve shown “outstanding acts of police work that directly affect the well-being of this community.”
“I think sometimes we get lost in who is actually doing the crime fighting,” Chell said. “One of the things I wanted to bring back to the venue is honoring some of my cops here, who are the ones who are out there 24/7. I get to speak about it, I get the accolades for it – sometimes not. But these ladies and gentlemen over here are the ones that are actually going out and doing it.”
Police Officer Tanagne Scott was recognized for making an evening bust on August 28. While on routine patrol, Scott, with her supervisor, Lt. Jeanine Cirillo, spotted a suspicious individual running near Coney Island Avenue. The duo stopped the man, who they later found had punched a woman in the face and made off with her cell phone. The suspect turned out to be a repeat offender – “one of worst,” Chell said – and the arrest put him in Riker’s with high bail as he awaits trial.
Police Officer Roger Santini was honored for helping thwart an iPhone theft. Two suspects flashed a knife and demanded the phone from a local resident. Santini, alone on patrol, spots a duo who match the suspects’ descriptions. Outnumbered, Santini knew he couldn’t try to make an arrest or question them on the spot, so instead took another tack.
“He was by himself and his experience of 18 years led him to believe I can’t engage these people by myself, then I’ll talk to them and wait for the troops to arrive,” Chell said. “Another excellent piece of police work. Another bad guy in jail.”
Cop of the Month awards were once regular features of Community Council meetings, but, over the past several years, have occurred only sporadically. Chell said he intends to make them routine once again.
Aside from the awards, Chell talked about problematic trends he sees in the district. Those trends include theft of Apple electronic products like iPhones and iPads, which he said is the number one crime in New York City. Daytime burglaries are also ongoing, though he said the precinct is trying new initiatives to bring those numbers down.
Traffic accidents also continue to be a problem, particularly speeders and the number of pedestrians struck by vehicles. Precinct leadership is identifying problematic intersections and staking them out to issue summonses.
“I will work hard every day to bring these numbers back down to make this the community to live in, to work in, and to raise your kids,” Chell said.