The NYPD received more than $20 million on Monday to spend on a wide array of new equipment for Queens precincts — including more than 250 police vans — in an effort to boost its emerging neighborhood policing program and help the department’s training efforts.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown gave NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill a check for $20.391 million during a news conference at the new police academy in College Point, Queens. The funds represent part of the borough’s share from a historic government settlement of a money laundering case involving HSBC Holdings.
Since prosecutors in Brown’s office participated in the HSBC investigation, he said his office received an “equitable sharing” award of $116 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury.
The NYPD will use the money allocated Monday to buy equipment for its Queens precincts.
O’Neill said the department will spend $11.2 million on new SUVs for all 16 Queens precincts — 144 vehicles for Queens North and 120 for Queens South commands.
“These vehicles will be used to bolster our neighborhood policing efforts,” O’Neill said, adding that the SUVs will be driven by special neighborhood coordinating officers and cops patrolling the so-called “steady sectors,” police zones where the same officers are responsible for a particular area.
Since 2015 when he was chief of department under former Commissioner William Bratton, O’Neill has emphasized neighborhood policing as a critical way to reintegrate cops with the communities they serve.
The new policing model is viewed within the NYPD as a way of rebuilding relations between police and communities, which frayed over the years after officers’ use of stop and frisk tactics.
In addition, some of the funds will be spent on new technology for recruits at the academy, which opened to much fanfare in 2015. Some $2.7 million will be spent on new tablets for recruits and their instructors.
More than $1.9 million will be used to purchase new automated external defibrillators to replace the department’s current stock — which in some cases are between 15 and 17 years old, O’Neill said. The NYPD will also spend $1.6 million to purchase 19,000 upgraded gun holsters with a more secure automatic locking system, officials said.
Separately, O’Neill and Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce expressed their concern over the increase in heroin use in the city.
“A lot of has to do with the fact that heroin is laced with fentanyl, which is 20 to 25 times more powerful than heroin,” O’Neill said, adding that there were 1,200 fatal overdoses last year, compared to 335 homicides.
Heroin use is a problem in each borough, with the Bronx and north Queens standing out, Boyce said. One additional problem according to Boyce is that the heroin now on the street is about 60 percent purity. Just a few years ago, the purity was 10 percent, Boyce said. As part of an initiative against the drug traffickers, cops have recently seized 134 kilos — about 295 pounds — of heroin, he said.