NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill visited the borough, adding a layer of personality to a face often only seen in the media.
The commissioner visited the 45th Precinct Community Council meeting on Tuesday, February 1 at St. Theresa School.
During his remarks he touched on the crime decline throughout the city, an opioid struggle that is not confined to any one demographic group and the department’s efforts to thwart terrorism.
Attendees learned a bit more about the commissioner’s background, including his 16 plus years as a precinct commander, including a stint in the borough’s 44th Precinct in Highbridge.
O’Neill took questions, and addressed some of the precinct council’s concerns.
On the perennial issue of the 45th Precinct staffing and community leaders belief that more police personnel are needed at the precinct, O’Neill told the council that headcount is up, with 15 new cops for a total of 173.
He also addressed the anticipated arrival of the Neighborhood Coordination Officers, a community policing initiative, and addressed the program’s benefits.
The questions including inquiries not only concerning the 45th Precinct but other nearby precincts, including one specific condition that was addressed privately with an array of some top NYPD personnel in the borough and city.
In response to audience questions, O’Neill took time to address concerns including talk about enforcement and legislature aimed at curbing erratic e-bike driving.
The commissioner spoke of going ‘up the food chain’ to arrest the illegal suppliers of opioids.
Senator Jamaal Bailey and Councilman Mark Gjonaj attended the event.
Gjonaj called the visit “true leadership” on the commissioner’s part.
“For a commissioner to make his way to our part of the Bronx, in particular this community, is very important,” said Gjonaj. “He shouldn’t be a figure who they hear from or witness on TV.”
Bob Bieder, precinct council president, said the visit enhances police-community relations.
“Having a commissioner come out and address people directly, and being able to ask him questions face-to-face creates a stronger relationship and a better bond between police and community,” he said.
Board member John Doyle said the fact that two commissioners in three years visited the council shows it is vigorous, and said he was impressed that the commissioner knew the overdose rates in the precinct.
Another precinct council board member, Annie Boller, said that it was important for the commissioner to listen to the public’s concerns in person.
Michelle Torrioni, Pelham Bay Taxpayers president, said that more police officers are needed in the 45th Precinct, in part because of the large geographic area it serves and due to an uptick in incidents.
“We do definitely need more staff,” said Torrioni. “There is just not enough (cops) to service the area they have to cover, and we deserve more.”