In a ceremony held at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens on Tuesday evening, 8 new Neighborhood Community Officers were officially inducted into service and given their designated areas within the 71st Precinct. The 71st Precinct is located in Central Brooklyn at the southern end of Crown Heights, which houses various residential areas as well as local businesses. These officers volunteered to specifically serve this region as part of an updated community-based program that aims to build trust and familiarity between officers and the people that live in this area.
The evening began with an overview of the sector boundaries and an official introduction of the commanding officer who will guide these new volunteers: Sergeant Alfred Kelly. Kelly has been with the New York Police Department for 17 years, serving the 71st Precinct for the last 8 years specifically. Boasting patrol experience, years spent training rookie officers and a wealth of knowledge in community affairs, Kelly is poised to lead these new officers in the right direction.
About 60 local residents, clergyman, former police officers and community leaders were in attendance at the induction ceremony. Some of the audience members came to get acquainted with their new neighborhood officer while others came ready with questions and concerns. As the commanding officers stood in front of a small theater in the Botanic Garden, they fielded questions about patrol routes, the use of body cameras and concerns over safety at religious institutions. In an interview with attendee Ester Steinberg, a 30 year Crown Heights resident, she explains her experience with programs of this nature.
“I remember my family and friends knowing the names and the schedules of the officers that patrolled our neighborhood. You built up a relationship with them and over time they knew the difference between real trouble makers and locals who had a disagreement,” Steinberg explained.
While the sector boundaries are newly established, the Neighborhood Community Officer (NCO) program itself is far from new. The most recent program rolled out in 2015 when it was originally tested in precincts throughout Manhattan.
“There’s a huge advantage in a police officer being assigned to the same geographic location every day and getting to know the life of a neighborhood up close,” said Susan Herman, deputy commissioner of collaborative policing at a City Council hearing.
The NCO program model imagines a close-knit neighborhood that allows officers to be more hands-on when responding to disturbances. Instead of unknowingly bouncing from 911 call to 911 call, the officers are able to get to know the root of the issues while building a rapport with people in the area. The officers hope that building this relationship will help residents view their police work as a resource that contributes to their safety.
After presenting updated sector maps and a presentation that outlined the program’s goals, each individual officer was able to formally introduce themselves to the eager crowd. Although the program is volunteer-based, each officer had to undergo an application process and a large amount of additional training before accepting the new role and it’s important to note that none of the officers are rookies by any means. Under new leadership, with a group of eager volunteer officers and a modern approach to community engagement, the 71st Precinct hopes to iron out a program model that can stand the test of time.