“Like many of my generation, I was spurred to join the NYPD after the events of 9/11,” said Captain Anthony Lavino, executive officer of the 19th precinct, as he sat back in his small office at the historic headquarters of the precinct house on East 67th St.
“Those events made me decide to do something more service-oriented and give back to the community,” he said. Up until the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people–including 34 officers on the day of the attack and hundreds more officers who died of 9/11 related diseases in the years since–he was probably aiming for a career in hi-tech, with a bachelor of science degree in computer science.
But only months after the terrorist attacks, and while still attending Orange County Community College, he took the NYPD test in 2002.
In the meantime, he continued his education transferring to the highly competitive SUNY University of Binghamton where he earned a B.S. degree in 2004.
But shortly after graduation, when he got the call to join the next police academy class that was still using the old training facility on East 20th St., he jumped at the chance, eschewing a hi-tech career. “I never had any regrets,” he says.
He’s been climbing the NYPD ladder ever since.
And he said he’s never looked back on foresaking a career in hi tech. “I enjoy being in law enforcement. To be successful in policing today, you need to be able to leverage technological resources to ensure we deploy personnel to the right places at the right times, so I think my degree has certainly helped my career.
Being a police officer is rewarding because you have an opportunity to make a positive impact on peoples lives. And as you move up through the ranks, you also have the opportunity to institute change in the lives of the police officers who serve the public, making sure they are taken care of too.
The single 41-year-old son who now commutes to his post from Long Beach in Nassau Country, is the son of a NYS corrections officer and a mom who was a registered nurse. He born and raised in Chester NY, in Orange County about 60 miles north of Manhattan, but he quickly took to the streets of New York with his first posting in the South Bronx in the 43rd Precinct covering the Parkchester, Soundview and Castle Hill neighborhoods. That’s where he stayed until he took the sergeant’s test and was promoted five years later.
He went to Bronx Housing covering some of the same areas, but added Throgs Neck before he ended up getting transferred to the World Trade Center, where the 9/11 attacks had initially inspired him to join the department. By that time, he said it was a “high visibility security post. I really enjoyed it down there.”
He was only there about a year, when he took the next test and climbed the next rung on the NYPD ladder when he was promoted to Lieutenant, and moved to the Upper West Side in the 20th precinct where he worked on special operations.
By 2021, he was on the move again with his promotion to captain and a move to the 23rd precinct in East Harlem. “It’s a very tight knit community,” he said, “but unfortunately it is also prone to a lot of gun violence.”
Less than two years later, he was on the move again, to the 19th precinct on the Upper East Side covering an area that stretches from 59th Street to 96th Street, as the acting commanding officer. “We don’t have a lot of violent crime here, but we do have retail related crimes,” he said, “and a lot of traffic related problems tied to the 59th St. Bridge.”
“Last year our biggest problems were grand larceny, retail shoplifting and ‘check washing’,” he said.
The ‘check washing’ was tied to a spate of mailbox “fishing” crimes in which thieves through various tools “fish” for envelopes containing checks from street mail boxes. When they find envelopes with checks, they change or “wash” the intended payee and replace it with the name of a sham company or simply “cash” then overwrite the dollar amount and cash it themselves–often for thousands of dollars more than the original amount. “Since most checks are scanned electronically nowadays, the banks won’t catch the fake check,” Lavino notes. It is not until consumers notice suspiciously large unauthorized withdrawals that the scam gets exposed and the nightmare of trying to reclaim their money begins. Lavino said the NYPD has been working with the Post Office on public awareness campaigns. “If you pay using a check, don’t leave it in a mailbox overnight. Bring it to the Post Office directly or drop it in a mail box a half hour before the mail pickup time,” he cautioned. Even better, he says: skip the mail entirely and pay online.
The most well publicized recent crime came about in late December as a foot patrol spotted a suspicious person breaking into the town house in the East 60s that was being rented by “Raging Bull” and “The Irishman” actor Robert DeNiro Cops nabbed the suspect inside taking gifts from under the Christmas tree while DeNiro was still asleep upstairs. “That was just great police work,” Lavino said.
And he also said that toward the end of last year, they began noticing a string of grand larceny thefts by criminals swiping cars from parking garages. After watching hours of video, Lavino and two public safety officers were on the street one day when they spied a “person of interest” who was wanted for stealing at least seven cars including one Ferrari, one Austin Martin and several BMWs. The thief that was nabbed was only 16. “I don’t even think he had a driver’s license,” he said. A public awareness campaign ensued in which they told parking garages to never leave keys inside a car even when parked indoors, and report suspicious persons lurking around garages.
On the day Lavino spoke with Our Town, he learned that a deputy inspector who had been commanding the Central Park precinct, William J. “Bill” Gallagher, was returning to his old haunt in the 19th where he had previously been stationed as a captain to be the new permanent commanding officer of the 19th, ending Lavino’s short six month stint as the acting commander. For the moment, he while stay on as the precinct’s executive officer, reporting to the new C.O.
“I enjoy Manhattan,” he said. “I’d like to be a commanding officer somewhere in northern Manhattan. I’m eligible to retire [with a full pension] after 20 years, but I’m not planning on retiring. I’ll be here as long as I still enjoy it.”
“Being a police officer is rewarding because you have an opportunity to make a positive impact on peoples lives,” he said. “And as you move up through the ranks, you also have the opportunity to institute change in the lives of the police officers who serve the public, making sure they are taken care of too.”
“I’ll be here as long as I still enjoy it.” Captain Anthony Lavino, an 18 year veteran who no intention of “putting in his papers” when he reaches the 20 year mark.