In another defiant show of force in the face of out-of-control crime, Howard Beach is poised to join a growing number of battered Big Apple neighborhoods to hire their own security.
Residents of the close-knit community and the old stomping grounds of late Gambino Godfather John Gotti are fed up with rampant shoplifting, beatings and theft — and are mulling hiring moonlighting cops to stem the tide.
Petty larceny has surged 9% so far in the new year from the same period in 2022, along with felony assaults (up 50%); burglary (14%); and auto larceny (69%), according to NYPD data through Jan. 22.
“People are starting to feel like we are not as secure as we used to be,” said Phyllis Inserillo, co-president of the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic Association, which outlined a plan for a detail of off-duty NYPD cops during a Jan. 10 community Zoom call of about 100 residents. The group also discussed hiring unarmed private security guards.
The list of NYC locales looking to hire private crime-fighters is growing.
The Post reported last week that Bronx merchants took matters into their own hands by hiring private security guards to keep order on a bustling commercial strip.
Barbara Blair, president of the Garment District Alliance, said Friday that three property owners along Eighth Avenue have hired a paid detail “for constant presence” along a three-block stretch to combat drug dealers and loitering.
A Greenwich Village community group over the summer contracted armed guards to patrol their street and stop chronic drug dealing, crack smoking and public defecation, The Post reported in September.
Inserillo, who is also chief of staff for Councilwoman Joann Ariola (R-Ozone Park), said residents “work very closely” with the 106th Precinct, but cops patrol a large area and need help fighting career criminals amid revolving-door justice.
Brina Ciaramella, a mother of two middle-school boys, told The Post that her family is willing to pay up to $1,000 a year to get an off-duty uniformed NYPD officer patrolling Cross Bay Boulevard to ensure their safety.
“They just started walking home from school alone and they’ve started venturing out to Cross Bay,” the attorney said, noting, “Everybody has to be all in. There is a shortage of NYPD patrols. I don’t see a downside.”
Ciaramella said many of her neighbors say they’re willing to pay $100 or $200 a year for off-duty NYPD protection.
A uniformed officer working five hours per day, five days a week would run $64,500 per year, according to the plan. The hourly rate is $45.10.
Elizabeth Gomes, the 33-year-old straphanger who lost the vision in her right eye after being brutally attacked by an ex-con at a Howard Beach subway station in September, is convinced the added “protection” would have prevented her life-altering assault.
“He wouldn’t have thought about it. I would never have been in the news,” she said of her deranged attacker.
The new need for private policing does not sit well with law enforcers.
“It’s a damn shame that people in Howard Beach have to go into their pockets, with all the taxes that they are paying,” fumed retired detective Bo Dietl, an Ozone Park native who heads his own security firm. “I’ve never seen it [the city] worse. The difference in the ’70s and ’80s is we could go after these scumbags and lock ’em up and prosecute them.”
Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD sergeant and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said, “Due to the resignations, retirements, and anti-cop rhetoric, communities are being forced to pay for their own private security. The only people that couldn’t see this coming were the politicians that demanded to defund the police.”
The head of the city’s largest police union is also disgusted.
“It is absolutely shameful that any New York City neighborhood has to pay for additional police protection because the city refuses to address the NYPD staffing emergency,” said Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch. “It’s even worse that underpaid police officers need to take these gigs in order to pay their bills.”
Some Howard Beach residents told The Post they longed for the halcyon days when a murderous gangster ruled the roost. “It was tough years ago, in the ’80s, when Mr. Gotti was the guy,” recalled Bill Adam, 79. “When I say tough — you didn’t come into his neighborhood.”
Added another Dapper Don devotee: “When Gotti was here you never worried about crime ever. It wouldn’t be tolerated.”