Coffee with a Cop Day brings NYPD and Jamaica community together

National Coffee with a Cop Day at the Starbucks on Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens, on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, helped the process of
National Coffee with a Cop Day at the Starbucks on Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens, on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, helped the process of “building bridges with our community,” according to store manager Alisa Wrencher, right. Photo Credit: Theodore Parisienne

When Roseann Geiger, 54, wanted to talk to police near her job on Wednesday she went to Starbucks.

That’s because Wednesday was National Coffee with a Cop Day and Geiger, who lives in Seaford, Long Island, and works in Jamaica, was able to address her concerns about taxi cabs with the deputy inspector of the neighborhood’s 103rd Precinct.

“I just wanted to pop in … I think this neighborhood needs it,” said Geiger, who saw a flyer for the event at the Starbucks on Sutphin Boulevard. “It opens the channels. It’s good in this climate, in this day and age.”

So far, Starbucks has hosted more than 300 of these events nationwide (triple what the coffee company committed to earlier this year), a spokeswoman said. Now, the company will aim to organize 1,000 in 2018.

Similar events were hosted at other shops around the city on Wednesday, including at Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, and the Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park snack bar in Hamilton Heights.

“What’s great is for people who want to come and express themselves to the police, they don’t want to come to a precinct to do it — sometimes they do it out in the street — but it’s an equal footing for people to talk to us,” said Joanne Jaffe, chief of the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau, adding that conversations like these allow the public “to see us as humans and we get to see people and the community.”

Sgt. Efrain Perez, who organizes the events for the department, had coffee with more than half a dozen people within a half-hour after the event began at 1 p.m.

“Any time you can get officers with the community and they can open a dialogue and just have interesting conversation about what’s going on in their neighborhood … it’s always a pleasure to experience it,” he said.

In Jamaica, Community Affairs officers, others part of the NYPD’s Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCO) program and still others who just happened to drop by, mingled with community members. A few dozen people walked around the Starbucks sipping coffee and nibbling on treats, including cookies in the shape of police cars.

Jamaica resident Charles Atiles, 57, said he views these events as great opportunities for members of the community to talk to people who aim to keep them safe.

“It’s community relations, that’s plain and simple,” Atiles said. “I think it shows they care about what’s happening here.”

The Starbucks at Sutphin Boulevard at the corner of 89th Avenue, open since March 2016, was the first of its kind for the coffee giant: A community-based store that includes a classroom space for nonprofit organizations to use, said store manager Alisha Wrencher. Since then, more community-based locations have opened throughout the country, including in Ferguson, Missouri, she said.

This was the location’s fourth Coffee with a Cop event.

“We’re building bridges with our community,” said Wrencher, a longtime Jamaica resident. “It’s a great way to have conversation — positive conversations, helpful conversations about the things that are going wrong with the community — and also share their appreciation for the police officers.”

Wrencher said up to 60 people have showed up to each event.

“It doesn’t happen all the time; different people have different perspectives on how we build relationships,” she said about police-community relations. “You can’t get any better than connecting over coffee.”