Brooklyn Boro

The 68th Precinct and Community Council work together for safe streets

September 30, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Community Council President Ilene Sacco and Capt. Raymond S. Festino work together to help keep Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights safer during community council meetings, where members of the public show up to express concerns. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese
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Capt. Raymond Festino is in charge of the 68th Precinct, which polices two of the lowest crime neighborhoods in New York City — Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights. It’s not an easy job and expectations run high. Luckily, Festino has Ilene Sacco and the 68th Precinct Community Council to help him out.

Once a month, usually on the third Tuesday of each month, the 68th Precinct Community Council meets and gives Festino and his officers a chance to talk with the community face to face. It is an integral part of getting to know people and the issues they face.

“The meetings give us a forum to interact with people without it being confrontational,” Festino said at September’s meeting on Tuesday. “It still gives us an opportunity to get information out, to recognize officers when they need to be recognized and to give crime prevention tips. It’s a great forum and that’s why we do it every month.”

Helping Festino is Ilene Sacco, president of the 68th Precinct Community Council. Sacco initially got involved with the group after she had been assigned to the Bay Ridge/Bensonhurst/Dyker Heights area as an assistant district attorney 10 years ago. She acts as a liaison between the members of the 68th Precinct and the community.

“Ilene is absolutely amazing and so full of energy,” Festino said. “When I first got here, she wanted to do all of these things. I told her to go ahead. She had so many ideas. She’s brilliant and so nice.

“I use her a lot to bounce ideas off of and ask her for advice,” Festino continued. “She knows the community well, she’s an attorney and has been involved in many political arenas. She knows the whole game and is a great friend.”

Sacco runs the meetings, helps to set the agenda and organizes the community groups and politicians who show up. She also organizes events like the “Summer of Support,” a program aimed at getting the community involved in supporting their local police.

“The meetings are about information going both ways,” Sacco said. “We are probably one of the more active precinct councils in the city. We have an email list of over 2,000 people so we are constantly sending out information and taking it in.

“These meetings are for people with questions or [who] are having a problem in their park, for instance,” she said. “It’s about the precinct giving information to the community and the other way around too. Sometimes the only way the police are going to find out about something is when somebody comes here to raise an issue.”

The regular meetings also gives members of the 68th Precinct an opportunity to get to know those whom they are policing. Officers often show up to receive honors, whether that’s from the community council itself, a local official or both. Then, of course, there are the many community affairs officers who show up to the meetings. They’ll often be seen making small talk with regular folks because these officers practically become members of the neighborhood.

“Before I became a commanding officer, I used to think the community affairs officers were nonsense,” Festino admitted. “But they are vital because they are hands on with the community. They get a feel for what’s really going on. They do a great job. The community sees that they are not just regular enforcement officers, so there is a lot more free flowing information going back and forth.”

The 68th Precinct Community Council meetings are typically held every third Thursday at 7 p.m. at the precinct on 65th Street. However, next month’s meeting will be held at the Guild for Exceptional Children at 227 68th St. on Oct. 20, due to work going on in the precinct building.

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