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Clergy versus criminals - Leaders of local faiths meet with cops to combat crime

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The 70th Precinct practiced some of that good old-time religion last week to get the word out to the community about police matters.

About 40 Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist clergy leaders from within the precinct’s jurisdiction showed up before the regular community council meeting to learn about crime trends and police services available in their neighborhood.

“It was an excellent meeting,” said Father Michael Perry, pastor of Our Lady of Refuge Church on Ocean and Foster Avenues.

“The inspector [70th Precinct Commanding officer Inspector Ralph Monteforte] believes the clergy are the moral leaders in the community and it helps to provide a safer community where people know one another,” he added.

Perry said the meeting allowed the local clergy to meet Monteforte, who became the new commanding officer of the precinct last month, and for Monteforte to get to know the clergy so in an emergency he knows who to call.

Monteforte said he did a similar meet-and-greet with the clergy in Canarsie’s 69th Precinct when he was commanding officer there.

“I was getting feedback and it was very informative, so we invited all the clergy leaders within this precinct. Over 100 letters were sent out to all kinds of religious institutions to come to this forum so we could let them know what was going on in this precinct,” said Monteforte.

Monteforte said whether it’s crime- or quality-of-life related, what’s important is that the precinct lets clergy leaders know what police services are offered to them.

This includes such services as domestic violence programs, youth programs and crime prevention tips, he said.

“We want to get better at knowing people, and making sure we had better contact with them [clergy] so in case they have any problems or questions they could get back to us,” said Monteforte.

“Any information we give to them can be filtered through their congregation, too. So I think it was very helpful to the police department to have all these leaders in one room together talking to themselves and actually talking to us,” he added.

Mohammad Razvi, executive director of the Council of Peoples Organizations, which does work with the large Islamic community within the precinct, said the meeting was very informative in that it explained to clergy leaders how crime statistics are tracked.

“One of the best things we can tell members of our organizations is new crime trends like kids being mugged for their Sidekicks cell phones, and identity thefts and safety measure tips you can do when you go on vacation,” said Razvi.

Pastor Peter Golden of St. Paul’s Church on Church Avenue and St. Paul’s Place said doing outreach to the clergy helps both the community and the police department in getting the word out about police and crime issues.

Rabbi Saul Perlstein of Congregation Yeshurin, 1450 Ocean Parkway, said that, judging from the meeting, he will enjoy working with Monteforte.

“He wants to really cement the relationship between the clergy, the community and the police department, and it’s going to happen because he delivers the message with heart, with soul and like a religious person,” said Perlstein.

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