At 7 p.m. on a frigid Wednesday night, people filtered into the John Malone Community Center at 2335 Bergen Avenue to attend the 63rd Precinct Community Council meeting.
The meeting, held on February 22nd, updated attendees on the state of crime within the precinct, which encompasses Bergen Beach, Mill Basin and Marine Park.
Commanding Officer Captain Rachael Kosak opened the meeting with a small Cop of the Month ceremony. Officer Dean Perez earned the award for arresting a repeat offender who was erratically riding around the Glenwood Houses complex on an electric scooter wielding a gun.
For the first time since the precinct began these awards, the recipient received a placard instead of a paper certificate and is getting a designated parking spot at the precinct until the next Cop of the Month is announced.
Kosak also introduced two cops, new to the precinct, Captain Kristen Schaffer and Lieutenant John Romani, who are now permanent members of the 63rd Precinct.
Mill Basin resident Christina Caputo brought up the topic of driving while high, sparking a discussion on the legalization of marijuana. She explained that the night before, she ordered food from a local restaurant and the deliveryman arrived not only high, but actually holding a cannabis joint in his hand.
Her order smelled so strongly of cannabis that she chose to throw it out, rather than eat it. That’s not what upset her the most, though.
“I realized there’s someone driving around my neighborhood who’s under the influence right now,” she said. “The driving under the influence concerns me.”
Driving while drunk is much easier for the police to test for, as cannabis was only just recently made legal to smoke and sell with proper licensing. Most cops are trained in alcohol testing, but drug testing is a specialized job that not every officer is equipped to do.
“Alcohol’s kinda’ become the easy one,” Kosak said.
The precinct sets up driving checkpoints at random locations in the precinct daily, usually at high traffic or collision sites. If a driver appears under the influence, they can be tested. However, if you notice someone driving while high, you can report it to the precinct.
In Mill Basin, the majority of reported crimes are coming out of Kings Plaza Shopping Center. People are reporting their wallets and recent purchases stolen. Kosak said the precinct believes there’s just one person who’s responsible for pickpocketing and stealing unattended bags.
Bergen Beach’s foremost crime as of late has been catalytic converter theft.
Theft of unlocked or running cars has been the biggest reported problem in Marine Park this past month, just as it was in the 69th Precinct. Police advise drivers to keep their cars locked and off while doing errands, no matter how quick they are.
A crime the community should start to look out for, Kosak said, is theft of IRS checks during the upcoming tax season. If you know you should be receiving a check in the mail but it never arrives, there’s a chance it may have been stolen. You can contact the precinct and the sender if this happens, but the best form of prevention is to arrange for direct deposit.
The precinct also announced that its youth program has grown since last month to now include six officers. These officers are stationed outside the 23 schools in the precinct during dismissal and rotate schools.
Marine Park residents have recently been complaining that some middle schoolers were being disruptive on their property, so this expansion is expected to curb that issue.