Police officers at the Thursday, June 17 meeting of the 52nd Precinct Council were thrilled to announce an exciting victory: they feel they have successfully cleaned up Devoe Park.
The small park, located between West Fordham Road and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard near the Major Deegan, has long been a problem for the neighborhood.
On Wednesday night, June 16, according to Deputy Inspector John D’Adamo, police issued 15 criminal court summonses for gambling. In addition, the slew of arrests was even more notable because, as D’Adamo said, “This was an instance of the community and police working together as one unit to put these people away. Now you guys see that this is how we can get things done.”
Diana, who attended the meeting and wished to remain anonymous, had spent years crusading against the crime going on in Devoe Park. “I have to give these police officers props,” she said, “because they did not stand for that stuff in our park.”
Diana went on to explain that for years, she would find the park littered with trash, alcohol bottles, and drug baggies in the morning.
“Prositutes, gambling, drinking, drugs, it was all happening there,” she said. “There are guns being handled, there’s knife-fighting, and it’s all hostile because there’s gambling and any time you have gambling, you have a winner and a loser.”
D’Adamo said that the precinct had amped up their effort with Devoe Park because, “we needed to address these problems once and for all.”
New patrols will also be put in place at night to make sure the park is not used for beer drinking, pot smoking or gambling, but for basketball, families walking through, and other acceptable activities for which the park was originally intended.
The precinct announced a similar, though more temporary victory with nearby St. James Park, which has been suffering its own problem of prostitution. D’Adamo said that in an ongoing operation that sends cops into the park posing as johns (men looking to find a prostitute), the precinct has been “wildly successful” in finding both hookers and real johns, and arresting both.
Overall in the area, D’Adamo said with a grin, arrests are up, including everything from gun chargewrs to marijuana possession. “If someone is doing something wrong, and it could hurt the community, that person is going to get in trouble for it,” he told the room. “It’s that simple.”
Next up, the officers of the 52nd Precinct will tackle the 4th of July. Their plan will involve patrol officers out to confiscate illegal fireworks and alcohol in the possession of underage minors. In general, they recognize it’s a fun holiday but want to keep it safe, because it’s also a time that can become very dangerous.
“I don’t want to have some child show up at the station with half his head blown off from a firework,” announced D’Adamo, to a murmur of agreement from those present.