Citing an increasingly strained relationship between Coney Island residents and local law enforcement, some community members are demanding that police do more public outreach to bridge the divide.
“I think in dealing with people, you have to build up relationships and trust,” said resident Sophia Williams at a public meeting on Wednesday with the Civilian Complaints Review Board, a city agency that investigates police misconduct. “[Police] don’t have that personal contact with people.”
The 60th police precinct — which covers Coney Island, Gravesend, and Sea Gate — holds monthly public meetings to discuss recent crime in the area, but locals say that the events are under-advertised and poorly attended.
“I was extremely disappointed at the low level of public participation at the precinct meetings,” said local civic guru Craig Hammerman, who argued that the precinct needed to conduct more outreach campaigns. “They’re not marketing themselves very well.”
Another resident pushed for increased police presence across the People’s Playground, claiming that they currently have low visibility in the area — which emboldens criminals.
“Last year, I was sexually assaulted at 9:30 am in Coney Island. There’s no police presence,” said Soya Stewart at Wednesday’s meeting. “We don’t see them walking the beat, we don’t know who they are.”
Others countered that point, saying that residents’ complaints are overblown and unwarranted.
“I think we have a strong community policing team in Coney Island,” said Keisha Boatswain, the president of the Coney Island Anti-Violence Collaborative, a local organization that educates residents about de-escalation tactics and provides counseling for victims of gun violence.
Both the precinct and “PSA 1,” which patrols the local public housing developments, take part in a number of educational programs — including an upcoming domestic violence victims conference and a sex-trafficking symposium — Boatswain said, who claimed residents should take responsibility for utilizing these events.
“Each month the police department makes itself available to answer the community’s questions,” Boatswain noted. “They’re active participants.”
Hammerman also argued that residents should voice their concerns at public meetings before they claim that the police are uninvolved.
“If the community isn’t showing up at meetings, how can they expect changes?” he asked.
The press office of the New York City Police Department did not return requests for comment.