Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCOs) from the 23 Precinct are building bonds with students through their participation in the Saturday Night Lights (SNL) soccer program. SNL is a violence prevention and youth-development program organized by the New York City Football Club (NYCFC) and funded by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. The goal of the program is to provide a safe, fun, and productive place for young people to be during typically high crime times of the day.
On Friday and Saturday nights, professional sports coaches run high quality training sessions at participating locations throughout the city. Once a month, NCOs Raymond Ortiz and Michael Cintron stop by P.S. 57 in Spanish Harlem to participate in SNL and connect with local youth. Before they break off into teams for soccer scrimmages, NCOs Ortiz and Cintron engage in an informal conversation with the students. Although some of the students were originally reluctant to ask the officers questions, the NCOs have developed a rapport with the girls:
“At first they were a little shy and nervous, but after spending time with them and playing soccer, they ask us questions and even come up to us when they see us on the street.”
At the most recent soccer gathering, NCOs Ortiz and Cintron brought along a female officer from the 23 Precinct. The girls especially loved asking questions about her experience as a woman in uniform. While NCO Ortiz has enjoyed different aspects of his nine years on the job, he is particularly enthusiastic about the work he has been able to do as an NCO:
“Now that we can focus on one sector of the precinct, every day there is someone coming up to us to chat, say hi, or report a neighborhood problem.”
The conversations the NCOs have and the lifelong connections they make at these events are a crucial part of improving police and community relations while driving down crime.