QUEENS — Capt. Judith Harrison, whose mother worked as a civilian for the NYPD, wanted to be a police officer since she was a little girl.
She grew up surrounded by police officers, and said her recent appointment as the commanding officer of the Forest Hills precinct was a "dream come true.”
“I grew up with a respect for what police officers did and that’s who I wanted to be — somebody who helped,” said Harrison, who lives in Jamaica and was tapped to become the commanding officer of the 112th Precinct on July 3.
“It was a very pleasant surprise,” she said, adding that she found out about her new post the day before it took effect. “It’s what you work for.”
It's her first assignment as a commanding officer. Currently, she is the only woman holding that position in Queens.
Her goal, she said, is to further reduce crime in the area that is already one of the safest commands in the city. The precinct, which has roughly 130 officers, and covers Rego Park and Forest Hills, has not had a single murder in nearly three years.
Overall crime in the 112th Precinct is down more than 15 percent this year compared to the same period last year, according to statistics provided by the NYPD for the period from Jan. 1 to June 29.
The former executive officer of the 115th Precinct in Jackson Heights, Harrison said she is planning to organize a series of seminars and workshops at the station house and local community centers, “to give people tips on how to save their property.”
Last year, the area struggled with burglaries, some of which occurred when residents left their windows open and burglars entered their homes via fire escapes.
This year, the number of car thefts and car break-ins have increased. In some cases thieves stole property from cars after drivers left doors unlocked.
“Since I’ve been here, we've had two instances already where people left valuables in plain sight [in their cars] and next thing you know the glass is broken,” Harrison said Wednesday. “It seems basic, but sometimes you really have to reiterate that.”
She noted that residents in the area “feel like it may not be a violent command and they feel safe."
"But their valuables aren’t safe,” she added.
Harrison said she will also follow the efforts initiated by Conforti, who has become known for his use of social media to reach out to local residents.
She has already embraced Twitter and sent dozens of tweets from the precinct account since taking over the command last week. She said she will maintain the popular “tweetalongtuesdays,” initiated by Conforti, during which he followed a patrol team via Twitter. She is also planning to hold an online meeting, similar to the one Conforti organized last month.
Harrison — a big fan of Bob Marley and Steel Pulse — said she went to the Police Academy after she had graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Fairleigh Dickinson University, which she attended on a basketball scholarship.
Harrison, who stands 6-foot-2 and is a former power forward women's basketball star, said she is still very passionate about basketball and her favorite team, the Knicks, she said.
“I have been a Knicks fan since the 80s," she said. "But… I will watch any team and always appreciate a well-played game, regardless of which teams are playing.”
Her nonstop work schedule does not leave her time to play basketball, but she said that she “can still shoot.”
Harrison began her career at the NYPD in April 1997, when she was assigned to patrol duty in the 103rd Precinct.
Over the years, she served mostly in precincts located in Queens, including the 102nd Precinct in Richmond Hill, before being promoted to the rank of sergeant in the 104th Precinct in Ridgewood and lieutenant in the 109th Precinct. There, she said, she first met Conforti, who headed the detective squad in the precinct.
After being promoted to captain in January 2013, she served as the executive officer in the 115th Precinct in Jackson Heights, where she also commanded the impact zone.
She also worked at the Police Academy, Patrol Borough Queens North and Community Affairs Bureau.