Downtown

Police Commissioner O’Neil talks crime stats, promises to fix Atlantic Ave. permit problem in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Chamber President Carlo Scissura’s final Newsmakers event

December 6, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Police Commissioner James O’Neill spoke about crime stats and promised to solve a nagging neighborhood issue at the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce's Newsmakers event Tuesday morning. Photos by Mary Frost

Police Commissioner James O’Neill updated Brooklyn’s business community on the city’s improving crime statistics, took questions and promised to solve a nagging neighborhood issue at Tuesday’s Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s Newsmakers event.

The breakfast meeting was also notable as Chamber President Carlo Scissura bid farewell to members with this, his final Newsmakers. Heading the Chamber since 2012, he’s stepping down to lead the New York Building Congress, a real estate and construction trade group.

Brooklyn had more than its fair share of issues back in the day, when Commissioner O’Neill, known as a “cop’s cop,” lived in the borough.

“Brooklyn and parts of the Bronx became synonymous with dysfunction,” he told the crowd.

New York as a whole is a far different city now, O’Neill said, and so is Brooklyn.

“Back in the early 90s, crime was definitely out of control. Last year, in 2015, we ended up with 350 homicides [citywide], as compared to 2,200 homicides back in 1992. That’s a great testament to the hard work of everybody in the city, but it’s still 350 too many.” This year the city is on pace for somewhere between 335 and 340 homicides, he added.

In 1992, the city experienced 5,000 shootings, both fatal and non-fatal. This year O’Neill expects under a thousand shootings. And back in 1992, the city suffered 500,000 index (major) crimes. O’Neill said that this year he expects from 101,000 to 102,000 index crimes.

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The same pattern holds in Brooklyn, O’Neill said. In Brooklyn North and South, homicides and shootings are down, and “crime is down in Brooklyn North at a greater pace than it is across the city.”

Shown from left: Chamber President Carlo Scissura, O’Neill and Regina Myer, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

Neighborhood policing, police-linked shootings

“So much of the solution is to make sure we have that reconnection to the people of the city,” O’Neill said. To that end, neighborhood policing has rolled out in 11 neighborhoods in Brooklyn, roughly half the precincts in the city.

O’Neil was an early proponent of neighborhood policing, the modern version of the cop on the beat. It is meant to build stronger partnerships between police and their local communities. Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCOs) work closely with the community to identify and manage local concerns.

In the plan, the same two officers are assigned to the same sector each day, and given special training and resources.

“I think it’s going to make things better for the men and women of the NYPD, and more important, it’s going to make the city safer,” he said. “It seems like a very simple concept, but it’s never really been done.”

O’Neill also addressed controversial police shootings that have roiled the country over the past several years.

“By and large we have 36,000 cops in New York City. By and large, every single one of those cops came on this job for one single reason. They might not tell you it because they’re so humble. But they came on this job to make a difference and to make life better for people in the city,” he said.

Questions from the crowd

O’Neill was asked about measures being taken to combat the increase of hate incidents, including recent abuse in Bay Ridge.

“Since the election, the numbers have come up,” he said. The best thing to do is “help us investigate. If you, as a business owner, have video, let us have access to that video so we can arrest and prosecute as soon as possible.”

He was also asked about abusive police.

“We’ve fired hundreds of cops over the last few years, for doing things ranging from excessive force to stealing.” He detailed the internal systems NYPD has in place to deal with criminal activity by cops. “If it does happen, if we get video and as much information as possible, we’ll make sure that those police officers no longer [are] part of the police department.”

O’Neill outlined steps NYPD has taken to improve safety at J’ouvert, the celebration that takes place before the West Indian Day Parade. These include increased number of cops, increased lighting, and increased work with the community to make it safer.

Parking placard abuse on Atlantic Avenue

O’Neill was also asked about abuses involving illegitimate permit parking on Atlantic Avenue near the Brooklyn House of Detention, a long-simmering local issue.

Businesses on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill have complained that they are losing customers because so many city workers are using phony permits and other city ID to park for free all day, according to the Atlantic Avenue BID, the organization that represents more 300 businesses along the avenue.

“I’ll have a conversation with [Deputy Inspector] Sergio Centa of the 84th Precinct and rectify that,” O’Neill promised. “My own precinct up in the 44, we had a similar problem …. We cleaned up the situation. I’ll talk to Serge,” he said.

The series, which takes place at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, is sponsored by Investors Bank, in partnership with the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

Pictured above, from left: Brooklyn Chamber member Louie Liu, Investors Bank VP Ana Oliveira, Chamber President Carlo Scissura, Investors Bank CEO Domenick Cama, Commissioner James O’Neill, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Regina Myer, Councilmember Chaim Deutsch, Judge Bruce Balter, NYU VP Global Campus Safety Marlon Lunch, Brooklyn Law School Dean Nick Allard.

 

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