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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

Can police officers be better neighbors?

Police Officer Grid Troci, one of the neighborhood

Police Officer Grid Troci, one of the neighborhood coordination officers in Brownsville's 73rd Precinct. Photo Credit: Mark Chiusano

Police Officer Grid Troci is a 10-year veteran of the NYPD who says he’s been shot at three times (the bullets missed) and done his share of police grunt work.

But with his new assignment, he says he’s a happier man. To demonstrate, he gleefully opens the cover of his iPad.

After a few taps, he pulls up a page showing live security camera footage from a business within the 73rd Precinct in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

He has access to the footage because of his relationship with the business owner, who gave him the password to the video account so that he, too, could keep an eye on the store — one result of Troci’s community outreach work over the past seven months.

This kind of personal policing is part of the NYPD’s experiment with “neighborhood policing,” a new twist on an old idea — that an officer should have a regular beat, know the people along that beat and direct their activities in coordination with that community.

How much will that change the way New Yorkers feel about the NYPD?

Outreach and problem solving

Troci, who has lived in New York City since immigrating from Albania when he was 13-years-old, is one of eight neighborhood coordination officers in Brownsville’s 73rd Precinct. He was recommended for the position, and is being held up by the NYPD as an exemplar of the program.

NCO officers like Troci are assigned to a sector of the precinct, acting like a “primary care physician,” says Troci for those 20 or 30 blocks — dealing with problems and directing NYPD resources toward larger ones.

Their community outreach work includes following up on past crimes and attending tenant association meetings — or even literally walking a beat.

Troci says he and his partner tend to do this on Sundays for four or five hours on Pitkin Avenue, the neighborhood's business district.

The idea of police officers out in the community was embodied by the “community policing” initiatives started under the Dinkins administration in the early 1990s — meant to move toward a problem-solving mentality to policing as opposed to merely reacting to 911 calls. The idea never grew much beyond a few officers in each precinct.

Neighborhood policing, the updated version, modestly increases the amount of resources. It comes at the a time when broken windows and aggressive policing are being debated across the country. The dismantlement of stop-and-frisk, a practice that was highly used in neighborhoods like Brownsville, hasn't resulted in an increase in crime,  according to the NYPD, perhaps giving more room for alternate strategies.

For Troci, the flexibility to spend time solving problems is invigorating: he feels some of the freedom of a detective while improving patrol knowledge. He now knows the names and territories of the crews, or groups of young people, who he says are responsible for most of the crime in Brownsville these days. He gives out the phone number for his NYPD-issued cell phone and encourages people to call or text with issues.


Neighborhood policing will most likely be coming to a precinct near you very soon. It's unclear whether the program will be a new direction for the NYPD, or a Band-Aid to ease tensions.

Most residents canvassed in Brownsville hadn’t felt much of a difference since the program began in October, though many business owners along Pitkin Avenue expressed their gratitude for the uniformed officers of the 73rd, who were often visible and responsive.

Younger residents, however, reported fewer positive interactions with police officers, who often seemed to be “grilling” them from their cars, waiting for wrongdoing.

Neighborhood policing's community connections (and new technology) might fine-tune law enforcement priorities, though engagement will be a longer process. Troci felt he had more discretion in his new role — he could mediate between two neighbors who have a noise dispute, for example, rather than simply write a summons.

Some criminal justice reformers say that initiatives like these pull police officers in impossibly opposite directions — part social worker, part arm of the law.

The punitive side usually wins out when officers are directed to pay attention to quality of life offenses, in a time of low crime in NYC. Recognizing that, legislation to urge the NYPD more towards civil measures passed the City Council Wednesday.

At a school career fair on Wednesday, Troci pitched the honor of police work along with its good salary to the high school students, none of whom expressed interest in joining the police department.

One girl said she’d be “scared” to join. When asked about something he’d had difficulty with early on in his job, Troci mentioned handcuffing suspects — learning to do it without hurting the person.

A student asked whether Troci had ever been shot, and he quickly told his story.

No recruits, but perhaps a step toward better neighbors.

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