New captain sees good relations with community as key
By Shant Shahrigian
Coming to the Northwest Bronx marks a homecoming for the new commanding officer of the police department’s 50th Precinct. Capt. Paul Rasa spent the first 10 years of his career working the borough’s streets, initially as a narcotics officer in the 49th Precinct and then as a sergeant in the 43rd Precinct.
“I loved it,” Capt. Rasa said of his first decade in the Bronx. “I enjoyed working with the different communities and cultures that I represented and that I served. It was a great, great time in my career and I’m excited to be back in the Bronx again.”
Capt. Rasa made headlines for arresting the so-called “Riverdale groper” more than 16 years ago. The perpetrator earned his nickname after brazenly sexually assaulting a dozen women in the area, running up to them during the day and grabbing them.
On May 28, 1997, Capt. Rasa and his partner heard a woman crying for help, according to news reports. The duo found 18-year-old Michael Giancaspro on top of a victim. He ran, but Capt. Russo chased the suspect down, and made the arrest.
Capt. Rasa said he would apply lessons he learned near the start of his career to his new post. “In the 49th Precinct, we worked a lot with the people running the businesses,” he said. “Every day they would tell us what’s going on in the neighborhood. Now, as a commanding officer, you’re in charge of a whole operation here to really work with the community and to serve and protect and reduce crime.”
After starting at the 50th Precinct on Sept. 9, Capt. Rasa made his first appearance before the neighborhood at the precinct’s Community Council meeting three days later.
The 44-year-old captain cut an approachable figure as he introduced himself and gave safety tips about recent crime trends including thieves targeting women and commuters for expensive electronic devices, like smartphones.
Capt. Rasa stressed to his audience that they should always maintain awareness of their surroundings. “You live in this neighborhood, you’re deputized as the eyes and ears,” he said. “You’re not going to be sworn in, but you’re deputized.”
While touting the Citizens Police Academy and other initiatives available to civilians, Capt. Rasa teasingly said participants in these programs are given a free iPhone for joining — a light moment eliciting laughs from residents at the otherwise reserved meeting.
Capt. Rasa came to the precinct with a spike in crime of 54 percent during the first week of the month compared to the same week last year. However, he pointed out that the crime rate for the year was down by about 2 percent so far this year.