8th district commander beefing up street patrols

“It’s not my job to baby-sit your kids,” the 8th Police District’s new commander told members of the Millbrook and Parkwood civic associations last week.

That comment drew applause for Capt. Len Ditchkofsky on consecutive nights as he spoke at the organizations’ monthly meetings.

He got more when he said he has officers working overtime on weekends to curb underage drinking and unruly kids.

He drove home identical points at both gatherings, telling civic groups’ members his options are limited when dealing with juveniles.

“I can chase them or arrest them,” he said at Millbrook on April 17 and again at Parkwood on April 18. Police made 24 arrests on a recent weekend, he said, and almost all of those taken into custody lived in the district, which includes neighborhoods east of Roosevelt Boulevard and north of Rhawn Street.

“They’re your kids,” he said, adding he has gotten a few phone calls from police officers and firefighters whose offspring were among those who have gotten into trouble recently.

The captain’s comments were well-received at both meetings. The district’s residents have long complained about juveniles drinking or fighting or selling drugs.

Two Millbrook members, Ken Grow and Mike Lamb, reorganized a dormant Town Watch group in response to what has become a routine weekend problems in their neighborhood.

Ditchkofsky said he understands that youths getting arrested for underage drinking face a lot of consequences beyond the legal troubles. Their driver’s licenses, even what colleges will accept them, are affected, he said. Youths with alcohol will be first charged with disorderly conduct. But if they don’t stop, they’ll face underage drinking charges.

The captain said kids are being found with expensive hard liquor, not just beer.

“The kids are spending money on some top-shelf stuff,” he told Parkwood members. All of it gets confiscated, he added.

He said police also have found decks that kids have been built in wooded areas. They’re well-made with expensive materials, he said. One recently caught fire, and he said the other is sure to be set ablaze. There’s a trend among teens to start campfires to light up their drinking.

Ditchkofsky said the district’s manpower has been low. To counter that, he has put more officers on patrol to increase police visibility, which he said is a factor in reducing property crimes. He told members of both organizations they should notice more officers on patrol.

Burglaries and vandalism are big concerns to Northeast residents. He knows that on a personal level, he said, because he lives in the Northeast.

“I probably am concerned about the same things you are,” he told Millbrook members. “I am concerned about safety and property values.”

He said he has seen property values decrease in the Northeast, and he knows burglaries chase people out of the city.

“If you are the victim of a burglary, and can afford it, you’ll be gone within a year,” he said.

His good news was that major crimes have decreased 9 percent in the district. Further, he said he has been promised 10 officers after the next Police Academy class graduates in June. The captain said he took two officers from patrolling Franklin Mills mall and hopes to restore those patrols when he gets those officers.

Right across Woodhaven Road from Franklin Mills, vandals recently did more than $4,000 in damages to a wall at the Knights Road Shopping center, Jose Arce, senior property manager for Marx Realty, the New York company that operates the center, told Millbrook members at their meeting last week.

Marx had spent $2 million to fix up the property over the past few years, Arce said, adding that tenants who had left are returning.

“You have no idea how you upgraded our neighborhood,” Millbrook’s recording secretary, Mike Bremser, told Arce.

“We need everybody’s help to keep it nice,” Arce told the association’s members.

Rudy Muller, the 8th district’s community relations officer, said that a camera system is now in place in the shopping center.

Ditchkofsky, who had introduced Arce to Millbrook members, said the shopping center has offered to sponsor part of the district’s National Night Out on Aug. 7.

Arce said Marx Realty has made donations to the YMCA on Knights Road and to the neighborhood Town Watch. ••