There is a new top cop in Carroll Gardens.
Capt. Natalie Maldonado is settling into her new job running the 76th Precinct, which encompasses Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Red Hook, and part of Gowanus. Maldonado is the first female commanding officer at the 76 in 25 years, and the only one in Brooklyn today.
She only found out about the appointment on Jan. 30, and less than a week later, she was at her new post.
“This is like having my birthday and Christmas all at the same time,” she said.
Maldonado replaces Capt. Justin Lenz, who after two years in the precinct is moving to the 101st, in Queens. She has deep roots in Brooklyn, having grown up in Borough Park and spent all of her nearly two decades on the force working in the borough. She comes to the post from a job as commanding officer of Transit District 32, policing train lines across 10 precincts.
Maldonado is no stranger to the 76th Precinct. As a rookie, she was stationed in the neighboring 84th Precinct, and prior to working the subways, she oversaw anti-narcotics operations in Red Hook, including two major busts in 2012 and 2013 as part of a campaign called Operation Red Dawn. The push shared a name with the U.S. military offensive that resulted in the capture of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, which in turn drew its name from the film “Red Dawn,” about Colorado high schoolers repelling a Soviet invasion.
Red Hook still has drug dealers, but they are mostly low-level suppliers who are not connected to large, more violent organized-crime syndicates, Maldonado said.
The publicly recorded categories of crime have been on the decline in the precinct during the past year. The most persistent types of misdeeds are bike thefts and car break-ins, Maldonado said. She urged locals to lock up their bikes and remove valuables from their cars, saying that the area’s liberal leanings, when accompanied by absentmindedness, mean easy pickings for thieves.
“People around here are socially conscious, and that means a lot of bikes, but it also means a lot of bike thefts,” she said. “I don’t think there are many bad people in the area, but there are opportunists who will commit a crime when it is right in front of them.”