10th Precinct on Quality of Life Concerns, Catching Criminals
BY ZACH WILLIAMS | Proactive policing caught a trio of bank robbers last month, but some quality of life concerns might require a more passive approach, Deputy Inspector Michele Irizarry said at the Sept. 30 10th Precinct Community Council meeting.
Irizarry, who commands the precinct, said she is optimistic that overall crime statistics will drop a few more percentage points, ending the year with less crime than 2014. However, dealing with problems associated with the local homeless population could prove more tricky, with the courts and Mayor Bill de Blasio supporting the right of the homeless to panhandle and sleep on West Side streets, she told approximagely 15 local residents at the precinct stationhouse (230 W. 20th St. btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.).
“To him and to the courts, it’s not a crime for homeless individuals to sit on the streets. It’s not a crime for someone to sit there with a dog and hold a sign saying, you know, ‘I need money. I need food,’ that sort of thing,” she said.
One resident urged the precinct to assign specific officers to local beats, so that residents know where to turn to when problems arise. There have been several troubling incidents in recent weeks where locals have felt threatened by homeless individuals, according to Douglas Leland, president of the Manhattan Plaza Tenants Association (400 and 484 W. 43rd St. btw. 9th & 10th Aves.).
Homeless people have also been an occasional nuisance at the public library located at 209 W. 23rd St. (btw. 7 th & 8th Aves.), said employee Lateshe Lee, who requested that police conduct regular patrols of the library branch. She said in an interview that the troubling behavior includes homeless patrons who speak too loudly and take up extra seats. Irizarry recommended that the staff at the library “be careful” of letting in homeless people, lest they make a habit of frequenting the branch during the cold winter months.
While police welcome more cooperation with residents, events could divert police resources elsewhere in the near future, she said.
An upcoming #BlackLivesMatter protest, scheduled for Oct. 24, raises the possibility that officers from the precinct will have to manage protests just like they did last winter following the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case. Anti-police sentiment remains troubling, she added.
“It seems that there is a perceived lack of respect for law enforcement nationwide, and, you know, it is disheartening,” she said. “I can be proud of the job we are all doing, but obviously not everyone shares that.”
Even with the challenges of quality of life crimes, and the recent visits of Pope Francis and dozens of world leaders to the United Nations, there are still chances for 10th Precinct officers to get down to business catching the bad guys.
Two officers from the precinct — Lt. Peter Benekas and Officer Scott Williams — recently apprehended three suspects in connection to at least 10 bank robberies last month. The perpetrators would pass notes to bank tellers demanding $50 and $100 bills. All police had was surveillance footage as evidence, until three men piqued the interest of Benekas and Williams on Sept. 15 near the corner of Seventh Ave. and W. 18th St.
Three men fitting the perpetrators’ descriptions entered a People’s United Bank as if they were researching the layout, Benekas said at the meeting. The officers followed them to a nearby Wells Fargo branch on W. 17th St., where the suspects entered and exited rather quickly for customers, he added. Midblock, they were changing into clothes, which matched the descriptions of the bank robbers.
The suspects then went to a nearby Capital One Bank and continued what appeared to be some nefarious research, according to Benekas. The two officers then arrested the suspects, who police say confessed to committing the bank robberies. Benekas and Williams will receive recognition at the Wed., Oct. 28 Community Council meeting (7 p.m. at the 10th Precinct: 230 W. 20th St., btw. 7th & 8th Aves.).