Captain Raymond Festino, the 68th Precinct’s new commanding officer

April 16, 2014 Helen Klein
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For Captain Raymond Festino, who took over as commander of the 68th Precinct on Monday, April 14, the career move to southwest Brooklyn is pretty much a dream come true.

In a sit-down with this paper a little over a week after he arrived at the precinct – which covers Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton – Festino spoke glowingly of the community and the reception he has received.

“I was very nervous at first, first of all coming to an area that I had never really policed before,” Festino said. In addition, having come to the precinct from a stint as captain of the Brooklyn-Queens Firearms Investigation Unit, Festino noted, “Being off patrol and in an investigative unit for a long time, now I knew I would be dealing with the community extensively.”

That, it turned out, has been the golden key. “The one thing really making the transition easy has been my acceptance by the community,” Festino added. “That has blown me away. This is a great community and I already feel part of it, and I have only been here 10 days.”

Indeed, Festino expressed awe at the community’s sense of involvement, praising the numerous community activists for the time they spend doing volunteer work for numerous causes, from the precinct community council to kids’ sports organizations. “I am humbled by it,” he confessed. “After working all day, I don’t know if I could do that.”

Looking forward, Festino told this paper that he planned to build on the successes of his predecessors in his crime-fighting strategy.

Inheriting a precinct where crime has decreased substantially for the year, after years of steady decline – the most recent statistics from the NYPD have the 68th Precinct down 15.49 percent year to date through April 6 – Festino said that crime in the precinct, “is probably the lowest it’s been right now.”

That puts a little bit of pressure on, he acknowledged. “We have to go and address what has to be addressed, the issues that come up and hopefully do the job we have to do so that it has the effect we want,” he went on. “We are still going to address the quality-of-life stuff: graffiti, car break-ins, noise.”

This approach, said Festino, is basically the broken windows theory – by addressing smaller infractions, you can prevent many larger crimes from occurring. “We address the smaller stuff because by knocking out the smaller stuff, we are not allowing the larger stuff to come.”

Festino wasn’t always a cop. Now 47, he joined the force at age 28, taking a “huge pay cut” when he left his position as a network engineer with AT&T to do a job where he could make a difference. “I was just so unfulfilled,” he recalled. “I was working 12 or 14 hour days and I didn’t think I was doing anything worthwhile. I wanted to do something which I could look back on and say I was proud of what I did.”

So, in 1995, Festino joined the NYPD, and in his 19-year career, spent several years in the force’s narcotics division, first in Coney Island, then in Staten Island, where, he recalled, “I did a couple of pretty big cases involving gun trafficking and drugs. I got promoted to detective in 1999, and spent another year in narcotics on Staten Island. In my fifth year, I was promoted to sergeant and I went to the 77th Precinct in Crown Heights.”

Festino then moved through numerous postings as he was promoted to lieutenant and then captain, eventually landing the position of commanding officer of the firearms unit, where, in September, 2013, he presided over “the largest illegal gun trafficking case in the history of the NYPD,” in which over 250 illegal firearms were recovered and 19 individuals were arrested, “17 of whom never stepped foot in New York.”

Now that he’s in the 68th Precinct, Festino says he hopes he will “stay here for a while and get to enjoy this.

“I am loving life right now,” he added.

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