I took this photo in an effort to capture three police vehicles on the same corner (Franklin and Bergen): the Mobile Command Center, the mounted police truck (with horses in tow), and one of those little "interceptors" that are the TIE fighters to the Skywatch's AT-AT (nerd alert). At the last second, a car pulled into my frame, blocking the interceptor, and I swore under my breath . . . until I realized it was a police cruiser (click the image for a better view).
So the NYPD are out in force on Franklin--this isn't news. The street patrols have been beefed up to McGwire-Sosa proportions (the lady counted 8 officers in one 8-block trip from Dean to Eastern the other morning), the Mobile Command Center has been in place for over two weeks, the Skywatch has been crowding the sidewalk into one line at St. John's all summer, and the other day I saw mounted police clop-clopping their way up the Avenue. I don't recommend this test, but I'd put decent money down that if you live on Franklin between Eastern and Atlantic and you walked out your door right now and shouted "POLICE!" as loud as you could, you'd have a uniformed officer at your door in less than five minutes.
It's pretty clear why the officers are here, too. I asked one in front of the Command Center about it the other day, and our conversation went sometime like this:
Me: So, why is the Command Center parked right here?
Officer: Do you live around here?
Officer: Did you hear about the shootings?
Officer (shrugs): Well, then.
Still, the mounties seem like a bit much--there are only 80 police horses (and 112 officers trained to ride them) in the whole city, and you'd think that any given summer day they'd need most of those on duty for crowd control in the parks and at tourist destinations. Their presence made me wonder whether there isn't something else going on with the police on Franklin. Certainly securing the neighborhood is their first priority, but does that really mean throwing the kitchen sink at it?
A poster on Brooklynian's Crown Heights board had an interesting insight--the latest Police Academy class is less than two months into their service, and are still getting trained on the job. It seems that the need to test and provide training for new officers would dovetail nicely with a deliberate show of force, so I'm inclined to believe this theory without any hard evidence to back it up. What I'm more curious about is what my neighbors think--I've heard more than one person say "look, I'd prefer there wasn't a police truck on my corner 24-7, but it's a lot better than bullets," and I've also heard a few folks express their frustration at what they consider a police attempt to intimidate them and other residents. On the whole, things have been relatively quiet and several stoops have been noticeably less lively on Franklin since the surge.
As a final aside, I found it somewhat interesting that I can't pull up an official description of the Mobile Command Center with Google (though I could buy one, which would be right up there with my usual ideas for wowing the lady), but I can find a seven-minute official video about NYC's mounted police.
For anyone who missed it (I'm among this group), here's a video of the new anti-gun violence mural that the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center unveiled on Saturday. Congratulations and thanks to all those who participated in beautifying our community -- may your work inspire others to seek constructive pursuits and leave their weapons behind.