In the Chinese calendar, one New Year tradition is the “red envelope”, a gift of cash, often from parents to kids. So the number of people walking around with cash, or storing it in their homes, increases sharply as the Year of the Horse, which begins Jan. 31, approaches.
That enticement to criminals has prompted an unusual joint response from two New York Police Department precincts, the 72nd and the 66th, each of which encompasses one side of Eighth Avenue, the main street in Sunset Park’s Chinese community.
For the third straight year, beginning Jan. 23, the precincts will paying extra attention to the territory between Sixth and Tenth avenues and 40th and 61st streets, said Captain James Grant, commanding officer of the 72nd. As a former officer and lieutenant in the 66th Precinct, Grant said, he recognized the need to add a police presence and not worry about precinct boundaries.
So NYPD will send in extra auxiliary police from around the city to patrol those streets in the evenings, and will assign extra officers as well. The police presence serves as a deterrent, Grant said. “The community was very happy” last year, he said. “We did see a decrease in grand larceny and burglary.”
It wasn’t the first response to potential Chinese New Year criminal activity. Four years ago, as noted last year by the Home Reporter and Sunset News, community concern pushed the 72nd Precinct to begin parking a Mobile Command Center on Eighth Avenue near retail stores and banks. Not only does NYPD increase its presence, officers distributed crime prevention tips. This year, said Grant, the center will be located at 56th Street and Eighth Avenue, beginning on Jan. 24 (or Jan. 26, depending on availability).
The precinct cooperation makes sense because the spine of Chinatown is split. NYPD precincts typically respect each other’s territory unless there’s an emergency, Grant said. In this case, “we kind of relaxed it,” he said of himself and the leaders of the 66th, Deputy Inspectors James Sprague and his successor, Deputy Inspector Michael Deddo.
The patrols and Mobile Command Center will continue through Feb. 2, the day of the Lunar New Year Parade on Eighth Avenue.