6th Precinct C.O. plans new initiative on quality of life


By Lincoln Anderson

In the wake of the July 16 fatal stabbing of a 19-year-old man on W. 10th St. by another 19-year-old man who had gotten into a dispute with the victim’s transgendered friends, the commanding officer of the Sixth Police Precinct said the precinct is stepping up its efforts to combat prostitution and other quality of life problems.

However, speaking last Friday, Deputy Inspector Kevin Fitzgerald stressed that the July 16 murder “has nothing to do with prostitution.” Said Fitzgerald of Christian Soto-Ruiz, who was arrested for the stabbing, “He wasn’t making any offers. He only had $4 on him. He was talking to them like they were girls. It was an argument that ensued on the street at Christopher and Hudson Sts. They went their separate ways,” meeting up again later a block away on W. 10th St.

Fitzgerald said police are still looking into the records of all involved in the incident, but so far they’ve found only one person to have one prior arrest for prostitution.

The Police Department’s Hate Crimes division investigated and determined the stabbing was not a bias incident, he said.

Although the homicide happened a block from the precinct, Fitzgerald said W. 10th St. is very safe — and so is Christopher St., for that matter, despite the large numbers of people walking on it at night and in the early morning after the Hudson River Park and pier close at 1 a.m. However, Christopher St. is a focus of quality of life complaints for noise, public drinking, urination and the like, he said: “That’s been a complaint ever since I’ve been here. I’ve been here three years. And that’s a problem all over the precinct. Do we have quality of life issues and prostitution on Christopher St.? Yes, we do,” the C.O. said.

The court system doesn’t help matters, in that prostitutes, if they receive jail time, are usually back on the streets in 10-60 days, he added.

After 9/11, when quality of life problems were on the rise, Fitzgerald put in place the West Village Initiative, pulling together various police units to bring extra manpower to the area.

Now, Fitzgerald said he’s put a new initiative together, including the Port Authority police, Narcotics, the Warrants Squad, Gang Unit and the precinct’s specialty units to try to make a dent in some of the precinct’s entrenched problems.

“I formulated some strategies and we’re going to implement them,” he said, “and we’ll see what we can do.” The target area will be Christopher St. and the Meat Market, along Hudson, Greenwich and Washington Sts. — “the West Side, in general.”

“The pressure out there is going to be increasing. We’re going to be flooding the area with officers, undercovers,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s redeploying to deal with displacement” of quality of life conditions. “It’s not only because of the homicide. There’s been quality of life complaints about Christopher St. and the West Side, the Meat Market.” The Meat Market complaints are mainly noise, and noise constitutes 60 percent of the precinct’s quality of life complaints, he said.

This year to date, the precinct has made more than 100 prostitution arrests in the known prostitution areas along the West Side, the deputy inspector said. Johns are also targeted for arrest. “We’ll take their car whenever we can,” he said of the johns. “We’re just trying to make it unpleasant for anybody to come down here and try to engage in prostitution. Maybe there are some local community board members or leaders that say prostitution should be legal,” Fitzgerald noted. “But it’s illegal and we’re going to do everything we can to drive it out.”