Photo by Sabina Mollot
Police turned pitmasters: The 13th Precinct's P.O. John Seidita and Executive Officer Frank Sorensen
By Sabina Mollot
National Night Out Against Crime, an annual event aimed at getting communities and law enforcement agencies to work together, celebrated its 30th anniversary on Tuesday night. The event, which has evolved into more of a block party for the public, is organized by various NYPD precincts' community councils.
In keeping with tradition, the NNOAC organized by the 13th Precinct Community Council took place at St. Peter's Playground next to the Simon Baruch Middle School, and according to its head organizer Jo-Ann Polise, had an impressive turnout of 400-500 people throughout the evening.
"People look forward to it each year and we have a lot of repeat people," said Polise, who'd noticed that when handing out flyers earlier in the week, many passersby responded that they'd be there and had gone in previous years. "So it's nice to see people have that reaction," she said. "We put a lot of work into it and hopefully it gets a little better each year."
In attendance was a rep for the mayor who presented the community council with a proclamation and other law enforcement agencies exhibiting such as the FBI, Baruch security, the Manhattan district attorney's office, the 13th Precinct Auxiliary Unit and Manhattan Borough Patrol South auxiliary officers. Officers from the 13th Precinct, including the executive officer, Frank Sorensen, were also on hand to pitch in at the event by manning the grill.
Mike Gold and Polka Dots the clowns create animal balloons for kids.
Food at the event, which is always free for guests, was donated by Fairway supermarket with ice cream courtesy of two cream trucks. Entertainment was provided by a DJ, two clowns who were making balloon animals, two caricature artists and a bounce house.
A number of local businesses and organizations also had tables and handed out literature as well as a few freebie toys for kids. Some of the exhibitors included the Bellevue Community Advisory Board, the Karpas Health Information Center, the Public Service Commission, Cauz for Pawz, the ST-PCV Tenants Association, the Department of Environmental Protection, the NYC Board of Elections, New York Life, the East Midtown Stuyvesant CERT, Touro College and local banks M&T, TD, Ponce de Leon and Valley National.
Kids play in a bounce house.
One popular stop seemed to be auxiliary unit where kids got to explore a patrol car and pretend to drive it. Officers said they were always looking to recruit new (adult) auxies, whose job it is to be the eyes and ears of the community. Trained to look for trouble but avoid direct confrontation, following an 18-week training program, auxiliary or volunteer officers can start walking or driving the beat, accompanied by a veteran cop. Auxies can make arrests "if crimes are committed in front of us," said one lieutenant, Anthony Carcana, "and most of the things cops do," though they usually will just call in reports to the precinct after spotting trouble. The volunteer officers at the 13th Precinct are asked to commit 20 hours a month to patrolling. Sergeant Michael Weiss noted that the unit has recently begun seeing more women signing up.
An auxie himself for four years, Weiss said he got into it, like many of the new women officers, "to help the community." He added, "It's a lot of fun, more fun than my day job. I grew up in New York. I love the action."
Meanwhile, the new commanding officer of Patrol Borough Manhattan South, which is headquartered at the same building as the 13th Precinct, Assistant Chief William Morris, was also at the event. Having transferred from Manhattan North last week, Morris said his new objective was to deal with the main crime in the Manhattan South area, which is grand larceny. "There's a lot of property crime," he said. "Grand larceny is our top concern. We'll start to look at what strategies we can employ."
Judge Gerard Schriffen and Arlene Harrison, president of the Gramercy Park Block Association
Representatives from the FBI were a bit more mysterious about their intentions as they handed out literature about their various programs. Citing agency policy, those manning the booth declined to share their names.
Others, however, were more quite a bit more forward. At the Bellevue CAB table, Ruth Hunt, the director of community affairs for Bellevue Hospital, was urging free condoms onto a passerby.
"I have nothing to use it for," the man insisted, to which she responded, "Give it to some young person." CAB member Shelli Winfield was also walking around, attempting to get guests to register to vote for the September primary. Winfield noted that for the past three years, the CAB has actively been promoting voter registration, along with its pamphlets on everything from pap tests to portion control.
So far, there seemed to be plenty of interest amongst potential voters, which may have been a relief to borough president hopeful Jessica Lappin, also a City Council member, who stopped by NNOAC. Other pols who attended were Council Member Dan Garodnick and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh.