Problem Oriented Policing, a.k.a. POP, has returned to the 5th Precinct in Elmont after a two-year absence. The Nassau County Police Department redeployed 16 officers to the unit after Thanksgiving.
“Now that a new class of officers have begun, now they can start adding them in,” said Cristina Brennan, deputy director of communications for Legislator Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow). “They’ve also been asked to by the Legislature.”
Two officers, Steve Lincoln and Rita Bopp-Carroll, were reassigned to the office from regular patrol. Budget cuts by the county in 2011 had reduced the precinct’s staff of POP officers from four to one before the precinct closed in 2013.
One of the most vocal opponents of the dissolution of the program was Legislator Carrie Solages (D-Elmont). In June 2014, Solages met with Elmont residents to address the issues that arose in the wake of the cuts. According to Solages, the feedback he has received from his constituents has reflected frustration and fear, so he was buoyed by the news that there would be more community interaction between police and residents.
“This is what I and many community leaders have been ighting for for the last two years,” Solages said. “I’m very happy that we kept this issue alive.”
POP units, their proponents say, can better address the needs and concerns of the community by developing relationships with residents, who are urged to call the POP office directly and report any suspicious activity.
“Working with the schools and the community is what I really love to do,” said Bopp-Carroll. “I’m really happy to be back.”
Residents can always call 911 in emergencies, while the POP office is meant to respond to less-urgent matters, like noise complaints or bullying. Bopp-Carroll spoke to community members at the East End Civic Association meeting on Dec. 1, explaining what residents should expect from the POP unit.
“We try to do some problem-solving before it becomes criminal,” she said. “Any situation where there’s conflict between students and it could become criminal, we try to intervene before that happens.”
Civic Association President Patrick Nicolosi was notified by Bopp-Carroll of the reinstatement of the unit on Nov. 30, and asked her to come to the meeting to speak with his group.
“When you have that working relationship with officers in the schools, in the youth services, you don’t see them as police officers, you see them as one of you,” Nicolosi said. “When a patrol car comes down my block and I know the officer, it’s such a friendly feeling.”
Pat Boyle, the director of Gateway Youth Outreach, in Elmont, also welcomed the reinstatement of the office. Boyle and his team conduct after-school programs for elementary-school students in Elmont, and he has seen firsthand how unruly and dangerous groups of unsupervised young children can become.
Of the POP officers, Boyle said, “They have an eye and ear that the regular beat cop can’t have, because they go out to these community meetings and they get an opportunity to actually talk to people. Safety-wise, I think it’s a great thing — people get to air their grievances to somebody who’s really going to listen.”
To report a complaint or issue to the POP office, call (516) 573-6570.