Police iPhones speed up response times

BY GABE HERMAN | Tenth Precinct officers say their response times for local complaints have been faster since the city started giving every officer on the force an iPhone starting in early 2018.

Speaking at the precinct’s Build The Block meeting in Chelsea on April 16, Neighborhood Coordination Officers Samuel Baez-Veras and Ricardo Roman said the iPhones offer more direct ways for residents to reach police about nonemergency issues. Police specifically have been given the iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus models. According to reports, they previously were using a Nokia phone with a Windows program.

The officers have been giving out their cards so that Chelsea residents can call, text or e-mail about any local issue, such as noise complaints, safety concerns or even public urination.

Officers Ricardo Roman, left, and Samuel Baez led the Build The Block meeting at the Joyce Theater (Courtesy 10th Precinct Twitter)

Baez said that residents formerly would have to call 311, after which it might take an hour to assign the complaint to an officer. It could then be several hours before a complaint was finally checked out.

Or a person would call 911 and the nonemergency issue would get filtered through the system as a nonpriority call, again leading to a longer response time.


“Now you can go strictly through us,” Baez said. “We love getting the community involved with the Police Department. This is a whole new generation of policing, where we’re trying to break the wall between the community and the police. This type of dialogue is very important.”

Baez said the new iPhone system has been especially successful with noise complaints. Police can react faster while the noise is still happening. Baez said their approach to noise problems is to do mediation between neighbors, which effectively solves issues through dialogue.

The meeting was held at the Joyce Theater, on Eighth Ave. at 19th St. Two women who work at the theater raised an ongoing issue of people urinating on the building’s 19th St. side, where there is a nook between two stairwells. People apparently find it a somewhat hidden and convenient spot to do their business.

People are peeing there at all hours, and the women said that sometimes they arrive to work in the morning to find someone has even defecated there overnight, they said.

This nook between two stairwells outside the Joyce Theater on W. 19th St. west of Eighth Ave. is frequently used for urination, much to the chagrin of theater employees. An “N.C.O.” from the 10th Precinct said they will keep a better eye on it. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

One of the Joyce employees said that once a man proceeded to pee there just feet away from her as she was waiting for an Uber. She said she told nearby police about it but the cops said it wasn’t worth their time. “Wow, that’s unfortunate,” Baez responded.

Officers at the meeting said they would keep an extra eye on that stairwell area, and that the women should contact them directly whenever such things happen again.

Officers also said there have been a lot of thefts of packages delivered to area apartment buildings. They advised people to try to be aware of when a package might be delivered, and ask the building’s super to keep an eye out for it if they can’t be home at that time.

After the meeting, Officers Baez and Roman told this paper that the new iPhone program has helped give more transparency to the process of police helping and interacting with the community.

If people know their local officers, said Baez, they are more likely to contact them when an issue arises, or if they recognize a person in a wanted poster, for example.

“Suddenly I’m not Officer Baez, I’m Sam,” he said. “And you’re more comfortable reaching out.”

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