New Ninth C.O. is already familiar with precinct


By Albert Amateau

Captain James McCarthy, former commanding officer of the Fifth Police Precinct, took over command of the Ninth Precinct in the East Village just 11 days before the Aug. 14 blackout of 2003.

“It was a long two days, but all in all, things were under control,” he said in a recent interview at the precinct’s temporary home in the Housing Division police station on Avenue C and E. Eighth St.

“We had some bonfires in Tompkins Sq. Park, but I was glad they were there. The last thing I would have wanted to see was any civil disobedience outside the park in the street,” he said. “I could see a lot of people were there to let off steam. I had Fire Department people on the scene and they assured me there wasn’t much danger. One big fire was in a garbage can that people were dancing around and we let it burn,” he said.

McCarthy, 39, is no stranger to the East Village, having served as executive officer of the Ninth Precinct in 2001. He was named commander of the Fifth Precinct, covering Chinatown and Little Italy, in January 2002 and served there for 18 months until he was chosen to replace Deputy Inspector Kevin Ward who left the Ninth Precinct to pursue graduate study at Harvard.

“This is a bigger and busier precinct, but the nice thing about coming back was the advantage I had in knowing 80 percent of the personnel when I walked in the door. And a lot of people in the community knew me when I was executive officer,” he said.

McCarthy said he was grateful for his two executive officers, Wilfredo Maldona and Henry Detesky, and a community affairs officer, Jamie Hernandez, who seems to know everyone in the neighborhood, among the precinct’s 150 officers and 50 supervisors.

The first goal of all commanding officers is reducing crime, McCarthy acknowledged. But in the Ninth Precinct, quality-of-life issues run a close second. “We have a lot of homeless people and we have a lot of bars that generate lots of noise complaints,” he said.

The new 311 unified telephone complaint line has been a big help in getting a handle on quality-of-life issues. “It’s given me a chance to know where the problems are and to find out which bar owners in the neighborhood want to be partners with the Ninth Precinct in improving conditions.”

McCarthy has put bar owners on notice that he intends to lead multi-agency tours, known as “marches,” of problem locations. “Everyone knows what a march is,” he said. “We’re not going to random locations. I don’t like to surprise people and we’re not looking just to give out a storm of summonses,” McCarthy said. “In the next couple of weeks, I’m going to sit down with bar owners and let them know what I expect. I want people to make a living, but they have to do it with the community in mind.”

McCarthy has been a policeman for 19 years, and served as executive officer of the Sixth Precinct in the Village in 2000. He was raised in the Bronx, where he attended Cardinal Spellman High School and earned a B.S. degree from Marist College. He is currently working on a master’s degree in public administration at Marist.

McCarthy is married with three sons, ages 4, 6 and 11, who go to school in Westchester. “This is tough job when it comes to family,” he said. “But I try to spend as much time as possible with them. I bring them into the city occasionally and they love it.”