Locals with questions for the police about the post-Christmas chaos at Kings Plaza Shopping Center got mozzarella sticks instead of answers at the Dec. 30 meeting of the 63rd Precinct Community Council, and local leaders are complaining of a cover-up.
The final community council gathering of 2013 was more of a party than a meeting for the community residents who showed at the festively decorated John Malone Community Center four days after hundreds of teens ran rampant through the nearby mall, fighting and shoving police who tried to intervene.
The Dec. 26 mayhem — recorded on grainy cellphone videos that went viral the day after the incident — resulted in no arrests and no reported theft or property damage, according to official statements from NYPD headquarters — a claim outgoing Councilman Lew Fidler found incredible.
“If you saw the video, there were kids fighting with police,” said Fidler at the meeting. “You can see a girl walk up and hit an officer in the face. How can there be no arrests?”
The NYPD’s official stance is that no arrests were made, because no complaints were filed regarding any theft and violence that occurred at the mall, according to statements from both the department’s Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information and the 63rd Precinct.
Police headquarters initially claimed that no NYPD personnel were involved until Kings Plaza management called for help at 9 pm — when the mall was scheduled to close, and hours after the violence began — but the 63rd Precinct later said that it already had officers on the scene at the time.
A letter to community leaders from Officer Thomas Podd of the 63rd Precinct’s community affairs office dismissed the incident as “a group of rambunctious teens acting like children.”
Several of those community leaders attended the community council meeting hoping to ask the commanding officer, Deputy Inspector John Rowell, how the situation was allowed to escalate to the point where many businesses were forced to close their roll-down gates, holding customers inside for their safety. But Rowell skipped the meeting due to a “prior engagement” — an excuse that outraged Fidler.
“I don’t know what business the inspector had, but he should be here to communicate what’s happened at Kings Plaza,” Fidler said.
The precinct did send a representative, but the report the officer provided managed to omit any new information regarding the mall incident, while boasting about a reduction of the precinct’s crime rate — which some attendees believed might be related.
“They sent [an officer] down here to boast to everybody how the precinct led the city in crime reduction, when their officers aren’t reporting the crimes they witness,” he said.
Michael Benjamin, the President of the Bergen Beach Civic Association, later posted his agreement with Fidler on the group’s Facebook page.
“Councilman Lew Fidler was exactly right in his comments about police not wanting to increase their crime stats via arrests,” Benjamin wrote. “So, a near-riot is ‘off the books’ in the 63.”
Incoming Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Canarsie), who was also at the meeting, said later that as the new councilman, he would push to meet with both Deputy Inspector Rowell and Kings Plaza management in an effort to get to the bottom of the incident.
“Now that we’re back to business, I’m going to reach out to Inspector Rowell and see what his take is, and I’m going to sit down with Kings Plaza and see what their security plan is,” said Maisel.
The precinct spokesman at the meeting declined to comment on the Kings Plaza incident after making his report.
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