The option of organizations hosting virtual get-togethers has been the “new normal” since COVID restrictions went into effect two years ago. Despite the fact that many civics have successfully returned to in-person sessions, Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCOs) with the 69th Precinct are still confined to hosting Build the Block meetings in a virtual world of connectivity, limiting their ability to provide in-person confidentiality among residents.
“We miss seeing you guys in person and having those interactions where we can tell an officer one-on-one what’s happening on our block. We don’t know who else is listening in on our virtual meetings and having that face-to-face connection is really important to us,” said 69th Precinct Clergy Council Chaplain Faith Williams.
During the May 26th Zoom meeting, Sector C NCOs Tony Tan and Raymond Wong fielded questions and concerns about continuing their quarterly gatherings in person, as many pressing issues are better discussed face-to-face. Sector C encompasses Paerdegat Avenue North to the west side of East 94th Street and the south side of Glenwood Road to the north side of Avenue L.
Without a definitive safety or health reason to attribute to the limited sessions, Officer Wong said he will take the concerns back to the 69th Precinct Lieutenant to gauge the possibility of having a future meeting in person.
“Believe us, it’s a lot easier to serve our community when we see residents face-to-face,” said Wong. “Some of the older residents don’t like using virtual platforms or have problems connecting, and it makes it less effective for us to help them.”
The officers were also reminded that trolls and alleged “Zoom bombers” have intercepted remote meetings in the past, cutting residents short, insulting attendees and abruptly ending the stream of possibly crucial information. The duo acknowledged that these incidents of interruption would not, in fact, take place if meetings were held in a physical location.
Officer Tan said, “We’ll see if we can get an answer about holding our next meeting – even Sector D that’s coming up – in person again.”
Chaplain Williams also expressed her concern about the lack of NCOs present in the community. The officers admitted that a change in the NCO format has impacted their patrol patterns and with the implementation of Mayor Eric Adams’ Neighborhood Safety Teams tackling concentrated areas of violence, the 69th Precinct needs more manpower to support the Build the Block program.
The officers delivered their report on the uptick in automobile thefts, noting that four cars were stolen within just one week.
“These were crimes of opportunity,” Tan said. “A lot of times the public has too much faith in the community – they’re leaving their cars double parked, unlocked and running while they go into a store, fast food place or a deli for something – just for a few minutes.”
In an effort to combat the issue of drivers leaving cars open for thieves, the officers have encouraged businesses – especially along Flatlands Avenue – to hang signs reminding patrons to lock up and shut their vehicles.
NCOs from the precinct’s four sectors host their Build the Block meetings on a quarterly basis. The program’s aim is to help rebuild the relationship between police and the community, creating transparency within the NYPD. Officers often share their contact information during these meetings and take a plethora of feedback that hopefully engages others and leads to a better quality of life.
To find out when your sector meets, visit the 69th Precinct’s Twitter page: @NYPD69Pct.