NYPD neighborhood safety teams tasked with cracking down on guns

Sonia Rincón Image
Saturday, December 31, 2022
Behind-the-scenes of NYPD neighborhood safety team
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Eyewitness News reporter Sonia Rincon went behind the scenes with the members of an NYPD Neighborhood Safety Team tasked with taking guns off NYC streets.

BUSHWICK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- Eyewitness News went behind the scenes with the members of an NYPD specialized unit which took thousands of guns off the street amid a rise in major crime.

It was a neighborhood safety team in Far Rockaway Thursday night that recovered another illegal gun.

Pointing the gun at officers would cost the suspect, a paroled convicted killer, his life.

There are 33 neighborhood safety teams around the city that are tasked with getting illegal guns off the streets, in part by looking to build trust in the community.

The team based in Bushwick got a visit from Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey on Friday night, congratulating them on boosting gun arrests in Police Service Area 3 this year.

"Last year they had 43 total gun arrests, right now they have over 100 gun arrests," Maddrey said.

The uniformed neighborhood safety teams in 2022 replaced the plainclothes anti-crime unit disbanded in 2020.

"We trained them much more extensively in the law and constitutionality," Maddrey said.

RELATED: Eyewitness News is tracking crime and safety across New York City and in your neighborhood

This means using stop, question and frisk.

"A police officer still has the power to use it. Unfortunately, we became a little overzealous years ago using stop, question and frisk," Maddrey said. "We're training our officers better to be patient, watch, take your time."

"Every single officer there, I learn something from them every day," said Sgt. Alex Ramos of NYPD PSA3.

The team of six, led by Ramos, heads out each night with dash and body worn cameras ready to record interactions to use as evidence and for training.

"We use it to teach our officers how to do something right, and then when we see something wrong or something that could have been done better, we use it to show our officers this is not acceptable, this right here is dangerous, this could get you hurt," he said.

"Crime is down about 20% in the last couple of months. We're still high, but we've cut that in half," NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell said.

The city will end the year with double-digit percentage drops in shootings and homicides, but one challenge for neighborhood safety teams is that gun crime is increasingly involving both victims and shooters under the age of 18, who now face fewer consequences because of their age.

"We want to make sure our interactions with young people are done safely, respectfully," Maddrey said. "But we also have to understand that young people are out here carrying guns."

Other troubling increases this year are in quality-of-life crimes like auto theft and burglary. Chell says to expect to see more crackdowns on vehicles used to commit them.

"People don't like to see roving bands of illegal bikes on the highway, taking over streets," he said. "Cars with illegal paper plates racing around."

There is some overlap for the neighborhood safety teams. It's not uncommon to find illegal firearms from illegal vehicles, but in 2023, they're looking to continue hunting down all the guns that make their way to the city.

"They come from a lot of places, but we keep attacking guns on the street," Chell said.

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