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The Fixer: neighborhood cop

November 24, 2013

by Mark Adam

A familiar face along the streets, Police Officer Joe Acquaviva Jr. stops into businesses and attends his share of neighborhood meetings. He is the Pine Hills’ very own beat cop.

As a member of the Neighborhood Engagement Unit, the police department’s community policing effort, Acquaviva walks or bikes the neighborhood Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight, but has the flexibility to change his normal shift. He gets to know the people in his neighborhood and helps solve long-term problems like a disruptive tenant or a dilapidated house irking neighbors. The result is usually a solution for the neighborhood and freed patrol cars.

Police Officer Joe Acquaviva outside his office at the Pastoral Center at 40 N. Main St. (Photo by Mark Adam)

Police Officer Joe Acquaviva outside his office at the Pastoral Center at 40 N. Main St. (Photo by Mark Adam)

Acquaviva, 46, submits weekly reports on his work, attends community meetings and gives presentations on safety and security. In the first five months this year, he attended 68 meetings, including those hosted by the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association and the Beautify Upper Madison Project, he said. Acquaviva will be at the advisory committee on safety meeting at Albany Medical College on Monday.

Acquaviva bid for Beat 16, which covers half of the Pine Hills from Manning Boulevard to Partridge Street, when the Albany Police Department re-instituted community policing back in January 2011. He enjoys working in a diverse neighborhood comprised of residents, students and businesses.

“I’m gonna go to a neighborhood that is save-able, one that’s not really lost yet, cause a lot of our neighborhoods are and that’s just the raw truth. There’s probably a lot of people that don’t want to admit it,” he said.

A 16-year veteran on the Albany police force, Acquaviva spent 11 years patrolling Arbor Hill. Prior to that, he served six years with the Albany County Sheriff’s Department.

Eighteen of the city’s 33 zones have a walking beat officer like Acquaviva. His commander, Lt. Michael Tremblay, said the focus is to address quality of life issues, build relationships with community members and improve the communication process.

When the Madison Theatre was vandalized with graffiti, Acquaviva contacted the owner of the CVS next door, figuring the perpetrator was accessing its lower roof, said Virginia Hammer, president of the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association. Acquaviva got permission to post a “No Trespassing” sign so that anyone caught on the roof could be arrested.

“He takes a very active role in what goes on in the neighborhood. I see him around all the time,” Hammer said.

Acquaviva makes it a point to stop in businesses and see how things are going. Rachel Lainhart, a manager a Bruegger’s Bagels on the corner of Madison Avenue and South Allen Street, sees him regularly. Although there’s never been an incident that required his assistance, Lainhart has his business card and feels like she could call him if needed, she said.

Even elected officials go to Acquaviva to fix community issues. Leah Golby, councilwoman for the 10th Ward, which falls in Pine Hills, said that she calls Acquaviva even if it is not police-related because he finds solutions.

“I see him as a partner in helping to make the community better,” Golby said.

Originally from West Islip on Long Island, Acquaviva decided to become a police officer in high school after a local cop spoke in his constitutional law class. He joined the Albany Police Department in 1997.

“He was one of my all-stars,” said Steve Stella, former district commander in the Albany Police Department and current director of security at The College of Saint Rose. Acquaviva has acccompanied Saint Rose security officers to off-campus houses on numerous occasions to do a “knock and talk” where they respond to complaints of parties and loud music. Acquaviva “lays the law down,” but at the same time, makes it a teachable moment, Stella said.

For the past year and a half, Acquaviva’s office has been housed at the Pastoral Center at 40 N. Main St., the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. He was offered an office in the building by simply stopping in one day as he was walking his beat.

Like the rest of the Neighborhood Engagement Unit, Acquaviva has received specialized training in problem-oriented policing. He visits Pine Hills Elementary School to train fifth graders in gang resistance education and training, and works in the Albany Police Department’s cadet program, putting high schoolers through a modified police training program during the summer.

Acquaviva’s become such a presence in Pine Hills that his former commander hopes he considers college security when he hangs up his holster.

“He’d have a home here,” Stella said. -30-


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