2002-09-26 / View From the Middle

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The MiddleCivilian Patrol: Quality Of Life In Our Own Hands
By Charles Rogers

The Middle
Civilian Patrol: Quality Of Life In Our Own Hands

Last week it was reported to us that the United Canarsie South Civic Association, that im-portant group that gets together monthly to discuss issues concerning the neighborhoods south of Seaview Avenue and west of Rockaway Parkway, is looking for more people to sign up for its civilian motor patrol. The civic association covers a relatively small area, but nonetheless significant.

At their latest meeting, which took place Sep-tember 17, Lenny Fogel, the UCSCA’s vice president, said the patrol was set up so "regular citizens like ourselves" might observe either crimes or other "quality-of-life irregularities" that might be happening in the community and report it to the proper authorities — without going through the usual bu-reaucracy and paperwork of a middle man, such as the community board or office of a government of-ficial.

Fogel announced its existence to about 25 people who attended the meeting in the hope that more would join the patrollers.

"We’ve been doing it for about the past six months," he told me, "and we’ve seen some signs that it is effective." He noted a few examples, such as reporting and fixing a loaded catch basin at East 92 Street and Skidmore and another on Schenck Street, and street lights out in certain areas.

Elaborating on how he and the members of his group circumvent the bureaucracy, he said, "What we do is call the people who fix street lights and they come and fix it within a short period of time; a shorter period than if we had to call one of those other offices."

I asked Fogel about involving the 69 Precinct police and the community board and, indeed, the 69 Precinct Community Council.

"I suppose the police know about us,"’ he said, noting he is on good terms with community affairs officers and with Captain Robert Johnsen, comman-der of the precinct. "We’ve been around since last year, but we’ve never sought their specific help, not that we would turn it down. After all, that’s what we’re all there for."

The Community Council has been trying to reor-ganize their Civilian Motor Patrol for the past few years, without success.

At one time, about ten years or so ago, there was a very active, police-sanctioned civilian patrol, with a radio base of operations set up at the Foster Avenue stationhouse and patrol-lers going out every night on four-hour shifts looking for any kind of criminal activity. They would not get directly involved, but, with walkie-talkies at their side, immediately called the precinct and reported the activity.

It worked very well for awhile. Then, all of a sudden, the group suspended operations.

Now we have Duncan and Fogel and the UCSCA driving around southern Canarsie keeping an eye on things for us.

Are they vigilantes? "Definitely not," says Fo-gel. "We’re strictly observers. We don’t carry wea-pons and, hey, we don’t want to get directly in-volved in controversies. We’re just good, upright citi-zens who care about our community and the quality of life here."

Is it a matter of "Big Brother" watching us?

"We’ve been told that the country is in a terrorist alert phase," Fogel said, "so we’re ready to take a look — and report — anything that doesn’t look right."

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