Thursday, October 2, 2008

Crime Issues Include Street Robberies and Problems in Juniper Park

COP 104 Updates Resident at Juniper Civic Meeting

By Conor Greene

This month’s meeting of the Community Organizations of the 104th Precinct provided residents with an update on local crime trends, including a rash of street robberies and problems with rowdy groups of teenagers in Juniper Valley Park.

The meeting took place last Thursday in Our Lady of Hope Church in Middle Village as part of the Juniper Park Civic Association’s meeting.

Street Robberies and Problems in the Park

Community Affairs Officer Tommy Bell reported that there has been a rash of larceny, including several “student on student” crimes involving cell phones such as the popular Sidekick model. “They are walking around not paying attention to their surroundings and people are running up and grabbing them,” said Bell.

He said the precinct has made “a lot of arrests” in these incidents, but “is still battling” the trend. He urged parents to remind their teenagers to be aware while walking around using cell phones and other electronics.

As with the rest of the city, the precinct has seen a number of incidents of identity theft. Officer Bell reminded residents to shred all financial documents and other items that include personal information. He also stressed the importance of not giving out credit card or social security numbers online or over the phone.

The precinct has responded to complaints in the area around Juniper Valley Park and has “issued numerous summonses,” said Officer Bell. On one recent day, seven summonses were issued within a few hours, he added. “We hear you. If it continues, let us know,” he told the residents. “Best believe, we are out there.”

No Answer at the Precinct

Resident Patrick Trinchese followed up on a complaint he made at previous meetings: the lack of officers available to answer the phone at the precinct stationhouse. He said that there are often times he tries to call for non-emergency reasons that need a more immediate response than dialing 311 generates.

In response to his complaint, an officer provided him a precinct phone number at a town hall meeting a month ago. “Within three days, the number was disconnected,” Trinchese informed Officer Bell. The main number for the precinct “just rings off the hook,” he added.

Officer Bell explained that there is a person assigned to the switchboard around the clock. “You may call and think nobody is answering the phone, but they may be on the phone with someone else,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are some people you can’t get off the phone.”

Trinchese later cited several specific examples of calls to the precinct going unanswered, including an instance where a vehicle with an expired inspection
was parked in a no standing zone on 77th Street for several days.

“After multiple calls to the precinct with the phone ringing 20 to 25 times, there was no answer,” he said. After three days, the vehicle was ticketed for the expired inspection and was moved the following day.

“Occurrences like this slowly degrade the neighborhood by allowing people to exploit our facilities,” said Trinchese. “The response from the 104th Precinct to Middle Village residents’ quality of life is drastically dropping and needs to be addressed.”

Another resident related a story of successfully calling the precinct three weeks ago to report a theft in progress. He saw somebody stealing the rims off a car parked near his house, and his call to the precinct led to the apprehension of the suspects in Brooklyn, he said.

“That’s what we need – the eyes and the ears of the community to help catch these people,” said Officer Bell.He noted that there are undercover detectives assigned to these types of crimes.

Officer Bell stressed to residents that they should always call 911 to report emergencies and crimes in progress.

Concerns Over Homeless Camp

Officer Bell said the precinct would look into a resident’s complaint of a homeless camp that has been established near the Long Island Expressway off Borden Avenue in Maspeth.

A “large, large group” has set up mattresses and are urinating and defecating in a grassy area that can’t be seen from the service road, the resident said.

The resident reported the situation to the city after four of the homeless men, who were drunk, tried to fight a man working outside her home, she said. “I don’t know if it’s really safe,” she told Officer Bell, adding that her 311 report was cited as having action taken, despite the fact that the problem persists.

The officer told her that the precinct had previously received reports of homeless people gathering in a nearby park. “We moved them out previously, but it sounds like they are trying to set up shop again,” he said. Officers would be sent over to the area to check the situation out, he said.

Graffiti and Abandoned Cars

As is usually the case, a resident complained about the amount of graffiti in the area. Officer Bell called it a “constant problem” in the 104th Precinct, which often leads the city in vandalism-related arrests. “Unfortunately, we often lead the city in complaints as well,” he said, adding that the precinct has an officer assigned specifically to coordinating graffiti prevention and cleanup efforts. “It is something we are constantly battling,” said Officer Bell.

Civic executive board member Christina Wilkinson asked about having abandoned cars removed from in front of private houses. She said that a car has been parked in front of her mother’s house for months without being moved. She reported it to 311, and ten minutes later the complaint was logged as having been addressed. “It’s still sitting there,” she said.

Officer Bell said the precinct gets numerous calls reporting abandoned cars and must send an officer over to investigate. He said that cars can only be parked in the same place on the street for up to seven days. After that, the officer has the option of issuing a ticket or having the vehicle towed. “It doesn’t mean the car is automatically going to be towed,” he said. “That’s optional.”

Tony Nunziato said that Department of Transportation Queens Commissioner Maura McCarthy recently said at a meeting that after seven days, residents can notify the local precinct of an abandoned car. It then takes another seven days for the precinct to determine that the vehicle has actually been left for that long. It can then be towed.

According to Nunziato, McCarthy said that if a “moral majority” exists among residents, she would consider bringing back two day parking limits. However, residents noted that would lead to problems when residents go on vacation and in other cases.

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