LGBT Youth Could Join Police to Fight Greenwich Village Crime

By Andrea Swalec on July 27, 2011 7:02am 

WEST VILLAGE — Pairing the gay youths who hang out at Pier 45 with NYPD and Parks Enforcement Officers may seem like an unusual match, but it's one solution being considered by Greenwich Village residents concerned about an uptick in crime.

The area's community board hopes teaming them up will stamp down crime levels —often blamed on the youths — and foster understanding between the groups.

The proposal was greeted positively by some members and organizers in the LGBT youth organization FIERCE, which has been an outspoken critic of NYPD area patrols in the past.

"We do acknowledge that there's a problem of violence in the West Village," said FIERCE organizer John Blasco at Monday night’s Community Board 2 meeting at Housing Works' health center on 13th Street.

FIERCE Communications Director Ellen Vaz said she would need to get input from the group's full membership on whether they would want to join the enforcement officers on their patrols.

FIERCE organizers have a longer-term solution in the works — the creation of a community center on Pier 40 or elsewhere in the West Village, Vaz said. Pier 45 is located just north of Christopher Street along the Hudson River.

Arthur Schwartz, head of the community board's waterfront committee, said such a center is "totally possible" in the long term. 

"It would take some pressure off Pier 45," he said.

Schwartz said Tuesday evening that he will set up a meeting with the 6th Precinct Community Council regarding the possibility of joint patrols of the area.

He said he will not present the idea to the full Community Board yet.

The shared patrols, suggested by CB2 member Alexander Meadows, were also welcomed by some of the young people present.

"When do we start this patrol?” said Tamara Green, 24, who said she was homeless and had been helped by many local service organizations. “We don’t have to wait.”

Compared to the same period last year, the pier has seen a lot more trouble in the past 90 days, said Hudson River Park Trust Executive Vice President Noreen Doyle, whose group oversees Pier 45.

"There does seem to be a trend toward more issues this year," she said.

In the 6th Precinct as a whole, reports of felony assault have risen nearly 27 percent in the past year, according to the NYPD's CompStat reports. Robbery and rape had also risen, though overall crime has fallen by more than six percent in the same period.

The 6th Precinct Commanding Officer Brandon del Pozo said at a July 21 community board meeting that the NYPD is cracking down on Christopher Street crime, and officers have been instructed to make arrests rather than issue summonses.

Meadows suggested that the matchup was a good idea for both sides, "so you can see it from their side and they can see it from your side," he said. 

Meadows also suggested that FIERCE members put together a manual on sensitivity training for police officers after complaints from many that they’d been harassed.

The 6th Precinct and the Hudson River Park Trust did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the matter.

But the proposal was immediately rejected by some in the crowd including Dave Poster, head of the Christopher St. patrol, a neighborhood safety group made up of some residents.

Poster, who said his organization was not interested in participating in joint patrols, has sent hundreds of letters to elected officials over the past two decades asking for Pier 45 to close hours earlier than its current 1 a.m. closing time. He blames those who congregate on the pier for the area's crime problems.

"We feel that people who live in the area care more about the area and would do a better job," he said.

Blasco said LGBT youth of color in the area have been unfairly targeted by police. 

"We have been harassed by police for being in a group on the sidewalk and being too loud, which LGBTQ youth have experienced as racially charged profiling," he said.

Green said feeling supported by the community could help solve problems.

"These kids have nobody. Not friends, not family, nobody," she said.

"You want to know why they're acting out? We know why they're acting out, because we're sleeping on the floor right next to them. … You know why they're acting out? 'Cause they didn't eat for seven days."

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