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Neighborhood Policing Giving Cops 'Whole Picture' On Crime, Community

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - The New York Police Department says it is revolutionizing how it does business with neighborhood policing, a plan to put the same officers on the same streets at the same times every day.

The practice is brand new, and CBS2's Ali Bauman found officers at one precinct are still learning the ups and downs.

Officer Lonell Patrick is not new to the 105th Precinct in eastern Queens.

He's seeing the city's fifth largest precinct in a new light, with his new role as a neighborhood coordinating officer as an added layer to the normal beat cops.

"Once upon a time it was just dealing with the job itself," said Patrick about the NCO role.

His precinct began the neighborhood policing strategy last month, shrinking his patrol route down to just one neighborhood.

"With this, you're dealing with the community, so you address their concerns and you try to fix them before they turn into something bigger," said Patrick.

The goal is to get officers thinking more like locals.

"You'll know the conditions the chronic locations for 311, for 911, any open patterns," said Inspector J.D. Schiff, commanding officer.

Chief of Department Terence Monahan wants his officers to come up with their own solutions for helping their communities.

"If there's someone local to an area and he's there all the time, our cops will know who he his and we'll try to get him services before he acts out," said Monahan.

Problems can range from big to small, down to simply flagging a delivery man working in an area.

"We're having issues with people stealing packages off lawns after they're delivered," said NCO Lisa Boystak, who noted local video surveillance caught a man following up local deliveries by hitting a whole block and taking everything that was delivered.

The autonomy means greater responsibility.

"I'm allowing them to go in that neighborhood and they decide what they're going to do," said Monahan.

The policy is a big adjustment, especially for supervisors who were the toughest sell.

"We ran the philosophy of a very top down organization for many years, and now we're saying we want the cops to tell us what they need and how they handle situations," said Monahan.

This program isn't the NYPD's first attempt at community-based practices. A similar plan was introduced 30 years ago, but had little success reducing crime and eventually fizzled out.

"It never had a function of crime fighting," said Monahan. "We never gave that responsibility to the cops teaching them. They have to be involved with crime fighting, and we became almost two separate agencies in the 1980s. We had community officers over here and sector cops over here and they never joined. There was animosity between the two.""

A key aspect of the modern strategy is making officers more accessible, by handing out business cards and encouraging people to email or text their local officer directly about non urgent issues.

"I'm getting text message daily," said Patrick. "It may take a little time, but my thing is to try to get back to the person who texted me."

The chief hopes it puts a face to every 911 call.

"You have a cop, someone you can reach out to, your cop in your neighborhood," said Monahan.

Even though it's just getting started here, Patrick says he already feels a difference.

"Typically we see the worst part of the job," he said. "We see the people who are victims of crime or the criminal themselves, so you paint a picture of the community but that's not the whole picture.

"That's what this position allows you to do, see the whole community," said Patrick.

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