The morning after residents of Crown Heights took the Police Commissioner to task for drug dealing, prostitution and quality of life issues in the neighborhood, Ray Kelly was awarding the Deputy Inspector of their local 77th precinct a unit citation at Medal Day ceremonies.
The same precinct where, according to department statistics, crime has plummeted 18%.
“If you look at statistics at this precinct, they are very, very impressive,” Commissioner Kelly had told the crowded basement of Berean Baptist Church. “If you’re the victim of a crime, you don’t want to hear about statistics, I understand that, one crime is one crime too many – but the numbers here are really an indication of the work that’s being done.”
With all the talk about statistics, it sounded like the crowd was watching The Wire.
The citizens in attendance – very much sore from the loss of their local fallen hero Officer Omar Edwards, shot by a colleague – were visibly upset with Commissioner Kelly, who offered terse, defensive responses to a variety of questions.
One such question, from a local man, was about the status of additional Argus surveillance cameras, paid for by the city council courtesy of Councilwoman Letitia James. The Argus program, which is federally funded, pays for 505 surveillance cameras throughout the city, four of which are currently in the 77th precinct.
However, Commissioner Kelly contended, “funding has just not been made available for us to do it.”
“[The City Council has] something called Resolution A,” Commissioner Kelly told the crowd. “Where they are able to spend capital funding – capital money is funded by bonds for the most part, and it’s paid for by interest that the city pays. That’s what council people give. However, for cameras, the money has to be in the expense budget – totally different.
“It’s not a question of taking capital money and moving it to the expense budget because its apples and oranges. So what happens is the city council has to negotiate with the administration to get expense money. That is sort of what’s going on. To move capital funds into the expense budget is a very difficult process.“
Councilwoman Letitia James, who arrived shortly after the commissioner’s departure, wasn’t thrilled the commissioner had invoked her name on the matter, but offered that she had indeed made funds available for the cameras.
After the question and answer session was over, the commissioner got a head start on handing out commendations. He posed with officers from the 77th precinct receiving awards for their valor. Officers from the precinct are currently facing allegations of spewing anti-gay remarks and using excessive force against two lesbians at a local nightclub on May 16.
No matter. Photos were snapped, plaques distributed, and a gift of a large teddy bear, with the inscription “You are special” was delivered to Commissioner Kelly. He posed awkwardly with it for a moment before discarding it and making his exit.
“I thought this meeting was for us,“ said a local mother of two, as the commissioner departed. “It wasn’t about commending an officer. I’m happy that he’s doing a wonderful job, but nothing’s being done on my side of the woods.”