By Katie McFadden
It never hurts to have an extra pair of eyes looking out for the community. Many residents in Neponsit learned the value of that during a recent pilot program with a private security company patrolling the streets uptown. The Neponsit Property Owners Association (NPOA) is hoping to keep that effort going for the rest of the year, but they need fellow Neponsit neighbors to step up and pay their dues for some peace of mind and continued quality of life for all.
Back in October, with funds from members, the NPOA was able to fund a three-month pilot program for Epic Security to patrol beach to bay from Beach 142nd to Beach 149th Streets. The effort began as crime had started to go up while police patrols became more limited. “Sector Charlie from the 100th Precinct covers Beach 112th to the tip of Breezy Point and the 100th told us, at best, they have two cars patrolling that entire area, and with the blocks around Beach 116th being a big problem, those units are all occupied, so the result was that we weren’t getting much of a police presence in Neponsit and Belle Harbor,” NPOA second vice president Louis Calemine said. “With no presence and relative quiet, people who were up to no good took notice. We saw an uptick of cars being broken into, houses broken into, people going through backyards, defecating on lawns, squatters taking over abandoned homes, catalytic converters being stolen, and a general increase in quality-of-life issues. It was noticeable to the people here, but not everything was being reported to police.”
With such issues on the rise, concern grew and the NPOA took action by looking into private security, to make up for the lack of consistent police presence. They worked out an arrangement with Epic, and they decided to give it a shot. From October to December, a marked patrol car hit the streets of Neponsit, patrolling through the night. “The security is the eyes and ears of the neighborhood. They report on anything happening, so if there’s a car parked illegally or someone walking around suspiciously at 2 a.m., they take notice, and ask if they’re okay. They take down plate numbers or if someone looks suspicious, they take a description and put it in a report, so if that person was someone that was breaking into a house, at least we have something for the Precinct to work with. It’s all about observing and protecting. He’s the guy that can call 911 while people may be sleeping, and wait for police to arrive,” Calemine explained.
And he says the effort was highly effective in deterring criminals. “During a typical eight-hour shift, the security vehicle was passing each and every property on average five to seven times a night,” Calemine said. The program was a success. “It went very well. We had nothing but positive feedback from our members. The security guard basically tried to keep people moving and made sure the area was clear,” Calemine said. “We had no major incidents in the neighborhood during the pilot program. One guard responded to several burglar alarms, and they kept squatters from getting into some of the abandoned homes. It made a lot of people feel secure.”
That’s why the NPOA is hoping to keep it going. Since the beginning of the year, the private security has been on hiatus, but they’re hoping to get it going again and fund it through the end of the year. They just need a bit more participation from Neponsit homeowners. To help cover the costs of not only regular budget items such as maintaining the center malls along Rockaway Beach Blvd. and other areas in Neponsit, plus the upkeep of public parks in the area, the NPOA upped their dues this year from $75 to $100 to $400. Of the roughly 580 NPOA members, about 200 have sent in their dues.
“We raised about $90K and have the funding to get through the summer right now but this year, the NPOA’s official goal is to keep this neighborhood safe through the end of the year,” Calemine said. “If we can get 80 more households to contribute, we’d be able to fund security for the rest of the year.” However, if each of the 580 homes contributed, those yearly dues would come down more, to about $200 each. Dues-paying members are permitted to partake in voting to decide exactly how the money should be spent in the community. And those who have paid so far, say bringing security back immediately is a top priority. “We gave those who paid four options for using security, and at a rate of nine to one, people want it immediately,” Calemine said.
Despite the increase in dues, Calemine believes it’s well worth it. “In the 100th Precinct, crime is up in several major categories. Out of seven major felonies, four are up significantly, with the biggest being grand larceny auto and burglaries. If people think about a deductible for their insurance if their car gets robbed, or the cost of a catalytic converter, how much are those things going to cost out of pocket? For $400, for the presence of a marked security car patrolling our neighborhood, and potentially preventing those crimes, it’s well worth it. That’s a little more than a dollar a day for peace of mind, knowing while you’re sleeping, there’s someone being our eyes and ears. It’s a no brainer. This is the least we can do to protect our loved ones and property.”
The NPOA has created a new, interactive website that makes it easy for members to pay their dues and see exactly what their money is going toward. “You can see the budget, see who’s paid dues, see the by-laws, etc. We built this website to get the NPOA to where it is and where we want to see it go and that takes awareness and transparency,” Calemine said. NPOA members can access the website at Neponsit.org