Thursday, September 23, 2010

104th Staffing Levels Questioned in Aftermath of Storm

By Eric Yun

A storm with winds reaching 125 miles per hour blasted through Middle Village, leaving the area with a sea of downed trees and debris strewn around the streets. As residents attempted to deal with the aftermath of the storm, there were complaints that the 104th Precinct did not have enough officers necessary to handle the prob- lems in the neighborhood.

According to a report from the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA), 18 police officers were sent home at 6:15 PM after the storm. Robert Holden, president of the JPCA, noted that on a normal day the 104th Precinct is busy and understaffed. On Thursday night, sending home the 18 officers left Middle Village and the 104th Precinct without the necessary manpower to handle the hundreds of calls from frantic residents.

With streets blocked by downed trees, a traffic nightmare ensued on Queens and Woodhaven boulevards as drivers attempted to go home. With little to no help from police to direct traffic, drivers were forced to fend for themselves as they navigated through the neigh- borhood, encountering downed trees and wires at many turns.

Reinforcements arrived six hours later at midnight, but according to one source, “the officers [from Brooklyn] sat in the precinct for about an hour then were left to make their way through confusing and unfamiliar local streets that challenge even veteran officers of the precinct.” The officers were later reassigned to the 112th Precinct, which once again, left Middle Village without sufficient police presence.

Holden criticized the NYPD response after the storm. “We understand that other areas were hit by the storm, but there should be someone in the NYPD that could evaluate the situation and imme- diately deploy the necessary officers to the hardest hit areas,” he said.

A spokesperson for the NYPD said there was no wrongdoing in how the 104th Precinct handled the night. Personnel were held from dayshifts, and most officers worked double and sometimes even triple shifts. Traffic units were deployed, and the precinct worked with other city agencies to inform them of the various complaints. The precinct had to make some tough choices on which jobs were prioritized. This left only one car to handle what the precinct felt was minor incidents.
As of press time, the NYPD did not confirm or give a reason for 18 officers leaving the 104th Precinct Thursday night.

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