Some Ridgites stand behind scandal-scarred precinct

At the 68th Precinct Community Council meeting last Tuesday, longtime Bay Ridge resident Larry Morrish defended the police department in the wake of a gun smuggling scandal.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Dozens of residents showed their support for cops at the beloved Six-Eight during the precinct’s monthly community council meeting on Tuesday, offering thanks, praise — and a giant blue ribbon — to its top cop less than one month after five officers who worked there were charged in a gun-running scandal.

One lone Ridgite touched on the precinct’s tarnished reputation during the hour-long meeting at the 65th Street station house, and his question came after members of the council heaped awards and accolades on their boys in blue.

“What is the 68th Precinct doing to correct the mistrust going on between law enforcement and citizens?” asked Michael Clancy. “Unfortunately the actions of one or two can affect [the whole precinct.]”

Captain Richard DiBlasio, commanding officer, denied that relations were strained, and said that crime was down in the precinct.

“I can tell you with 100-percent certainty from my dealings with the community — it hasn’t affected anything,” he told us after the meeting in his first comments to the press over the scandal that resulted in the arrests of two of the precinct’s most beloved and oft-awarded community affairs officers, Joseph Trischitta and Marco Venezia.

Still, residents said that they were devastated by the accusations and have avoided bringing it up for fear of pouring salt in a wound.

“I’m sure that their morale was down, so I wanted to make sure that I was there for them,” said Maureen Stramka, who cheered the cops at the meeting even though she was devastated by the accusations. “I was very upset. It was total shock. I said, ‘You never know people do you?’ Deep down in my heart, I hope it’s not true.”

Feds charged William Masso, Eddie Goris, John Mahoney, Joseph Trischitta and Marco Venezia, all of the 68th Precinct, with illegally transporting $1 million worth of cigarettes, slot machines and guns, including M-16 rifles, handguns and a shotgun, to the city from New Jersey. Three other cops from Brooklyn were also netted in the Sept. 22 raid.

The bootlegging allegedly took place over the past two years — before DiBlassio took over as commanding officer this summer.

DiBlasio said that his precinct is leaving the investigation up to the feds and the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau. Meanwhile, he’s standing behind his boys.

“Those allegations are being investigated and my job is to remain committed to the police officers and the community,” said DiBlasio. “That’s my job and that’s what I’m doing.”

The president of the community council said that the scandal had unfairly sullied the reputation of the precinct, which she says is responsible for more good than bad.

“This is the best precinct in the whole world and this is best captain in the whole world,” said Ilene Sacco, who pointed out that during Bay Ridge’s Halloween Walk, Community Affairs Officer Anthony Curran found and took care of lost child — something that wasn’t on the front page of local newspapers.

“It wasn’t just that he found a missing child, it was that he was consoling her,” said Sacco. “She was crying and he picked her up. She was clutching to him for dear life — like he was saving her from falling off a building.”

Other great police stories Sacco recalled included:

• Officer Susan Porcello making national headlines in 2009 when she befriended an elderly man after responding to a rescue call. She also made him her “grandpa” and paid for his funeral and enlisted other cops to carry his casket at the service.

• The fact that in 2009 the city awarded the precinct for reducing crime by 22 percent in one year.

• During Hurricane Irene, DiBlasio worked for two days straight, sleeping at the station house, according to Sacco.

• Last Tuesday, two cops found a Shore Road man who had gone missing within 20 minutes of receiving the call.

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow his tweets at twitter.com/dsmacleod.

More from Around New York