Sgt. Paul Visconti, Deputy Inspector Patrick O'Connor, and LPOA President Jim Morrow.
By Daphne Rus, LPOA Secretary
The Levittown Property Owners Association met on June 13, with two officers from the 8th Precinct as speakers. Deputy Inspector Patrick O'Connor and Sgt. Paul Visconti described their activities and plans for their summer operations to ensure the highest quality of life for the community. Their presentation was upbeat, positive and reassuring, and was enthusiastically received by an attentive, responsive audience.
Inspector O'Connor, who transferred to Levittown from the Detective Division in December, has been with the department for over 26 years, with experience in several areas including homicide and marine work. To facilitate the 8th Precinct's involvement with the community, the staff does now and will continue to "work closely with school principals and administrators as well as leaders of community organizations," Inspector O'Connor stated. Sgt. Visconti, a "night time" sergeant, also does "plain clothes" operations. His duties are concentrated on youth problems such as under-age drinking, driving, illegal assembly during off-hours at schools, pools, playgrounds, village greens, etc., and graffiti. Both officers demonstrated experience and expertise in their approach to problems which could occur over the summer months.
One of the first questions directed to the officers was whether or not organized gangs exist in Levittown. Sgt. Visconti responded: "I can safely say no organized gangs are in Levittown because there is zero tolerance for them here." He said that through graffiti, using specific colors, gangs "mark their turf," by "making contact," thus extending their "power," but that the police have had "excellent cooperation" from school principals in preventing and discouraging this.
He noted that sometimes kids like to "copy" gang graffiti but this doesn't mean they belong to a gang. He stated that most of the graffiti here is done by kids from outside, from areas such as Ozone Park who come to Levittown at night for drinking and loitering. "Photos will be made of graffiti and if persons can be identified they and their families will be made responsible and given appearance tickets." Most gang members are not armed, Visconti noted, and if they cannot connect with each other through graffiti, they lose power. "The power of gangs comes from making others afraid of them," Visconti stated.
When someone mentioned the recent slashing at the Community Church parking lot, the officers said this wasn't a gang situation but resulted from a fight started months ago at school, and the youths involved were troubled - one was a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi, wore combat boots and was into martial arts. The mother of one of the boys was arrested.
Eighth Precinct officers plan strict enforcement against trespassing on school property, at parks, pools, playgrounds, greens, parking lots, etc. using four or five unmarked cars. Letters will be sent to parents of kids under 16 as anyone under that age cannot be given court appearance tickets, or parents will be contacted by phone to come and get their kid who is trespassing. They recommended high-powered lights at these areas; these have already been installed. The officers stated that recently about 18 tickets were given to kids hanging out at the North Village Green.
As for the many parties in homes this time of year, the officers said that persons giving alcoholic drinks to underage people can be arrested, and if an underage drinker has an accident, the adults can be liable or held responsible. Also, if stores sell alcohol to minors, they can lose their license for months or years, and can be fined $250-500 for selling cigarettes to minors.
The officers were questioned about junior driving licenses and responded that a 16-year-old can drive only if he's in an approved work-study program and must have a letter to show the police. A 17-year-old with drivers ed. can get a senior license, but not a 16-year-old.
Stop sign enforcement was mentioned, especially those around K-Mart and King Kullen on the Turnpike and Gardiners Avenue. Officers there have recently given out 30-40 tickets in a few days for illegal turns here. "The town has looked into this problem area for years," said O'Connor. The Target area is also getting precinct attention, and O'Connor said they will try to "lessen the number of accidents in this area," and will respond to specific complaints about the area.
When someone asked where kids get drugs, O'Connor answered: "From school, where they meet other kids." He continued: "Narcotic squads work undercover around schools, and have the cooperation of the schools and community. To be successful, we have to work together." The police don't go into schools, but identify persons selling drugs using binoculars, unmarked cars and getting cooperation from school principals.
Someone mentioned trouble at the vacant lot near Sparke's Elementary School where there is hanging out and noise until 2-3 a.m. The officers said it's best not to make contact with the kids, but to "let us handle the situation so there won't be retaliation."
They said as many as 12 tickets were given out here last year, and the police themselves cleaned up broken glass.
When asked what happens if kids get four to five tickets, O'Connor responded, "It's up to the judge or courts. Kids can be taken to the station house and the previous tickets can be listed on the back of other appearance tickets."
Officer Visconti concluded by saying, if we have a problem, "Come talk to me in my office. We want to make a difference." He remarked that he had signed 40 letters to parents today. He said Inspector O'Connor and he will listen and are always available.
Inspector O'Connor said they have high goals for Levittown, and he is "very positive about the community," especially if we work with him. All agreed this was the best meeting we've ever had with members of the 8th Precinct - and we've had many.
After the officers left, several members brought up a concern about rumors going around for plans to build a parking lot for 57 cars at the vacant lot adjacent to the Sparke School on Condor Road. They felt such a plan would "degrade and devalue their property. We don't want it now or ever," they said. Currently, the parks department does not maintain the property well, someone noted. Girl Scouts have been used to care for it. Some 47 people have signed a petition opposing plans for a parking lot. "This has been talked about since 1994, so nothing may ever come of it," someone noted. But there are problems on rainy days and at night events.
A committee of LPOA members was formed to look into the situation after hearing the impassioned pleas of nearby homeowners.
The LPOA's next meeting will be on Tuesday, Sept. 12 at the Levittown Public Library.