Thursday, January 29, 2009
Residents Appeal to 104th Precinct for Help
Battling Burglaries, Vandalism, Drunks in Maspeth
By Conor Greene
Despite the bitter cold weather, a group of Maspeth residents descended on the recent COP 104 meeting to bring attention to issues including several recent burglaries and packs of unruly teenagers who they say terrorize the neighborhood after leaving a nearby bar every Monday night.
The meeting last Wednesday in Maspeth Town Hall began with a review of 2008 crime statistics within the 104th Precinct, specifically the seven major crimes: homicide, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and auto theft.
2008 Crime Statistics
Despite the major crime numbers being “through the roof in June,” the precinct finished the year down about two percent from 2007, according to its executive officer, Captain Ralph Forgione.
There were four homicides last year - all in connection with the Father’s Day fire on 69th Street - which equals the total from 2007. There were 18 rapes, up from 12 the prior year. In most cases, the victim knew the assailant, noted Captain Forgione. “It is not a serial rapist,” he told residents. “It wasn’t as bad as it seems.”
There were 297 robberies in 2008, down one incident from 2007. The precinct made big gains in fighting felony assaults, with 132 last year, compared to 159 the prior year, a 17 percent decrease. “We were very happy with that,” said Captain Forgione, adding that many of the incidents take place at or near bars.
There was also a large decrease in burglaries, with 387 last year compared to 456, a 15 percent decrease. “That is one of the hardest to fight,” said Captain Forgione. “You have two minutes to catch the person going in. The burglary team did an unbelievable job.”
One area that saw a spike in incidents was grand larcenies, which include theft of purses and other unattended property. There were 508 incidents in 2008, compared to 437 the prior twelve months, a 16 percent increase. “You would not believe how many people leave purses and wallets in their cars,” said Captain Forgione. There was a slight decline in auto theft, with 337 reported in 2007compared with 357 the prior year – a five percent drop.
However, the precinct scored a major victory in its battle against grand larcenies when officers from the 104th stationhouse apprehended a “career criminal” late last year. The man has been linked to 15 crimes within the 104th Precinct alone, and is suspected in upwards of 100 others just in this area. He had been grabbing wallets and purses from cars at gas stations as the victim was inside the store or pumping gas. He is wanted for incidents across Queens North and South, said Captain Forgione.
So far this year, there has been an increase in house burglaries, including several reports in Maspeth and Ridgewood. In most cases, the perpetrator enters the home through a rear door or window. “People are still leaving windows open, doors unlocked,” said Captain Forgione. “They’re going in the backyard and checking – if it’s open, they’re goingin.” Several of the incidents were near Fresh Pond Road and Madison Street, with the suspect entering second and third floor apartments via fire escapes.
Problems in Maspeth
The remainder of the meeting was dominated by issues raised by a group of a dozen residents from the neighborhood bounded by Maurice Avenue, 69th Street and the Long Island Expressway. Not only have there been several home burglaries in the past few weeks, the residents were left feeling as though the responding officers didn’t take the incidents seriously.
In one incident, a resident noticed a suspicious person inside his neighbor’s home, which was supposed to be unoccupied at the time. When the officers arrived, neighbors had the house surrounded and were afraid the perp was still inside. In their view, the responding officers did not take the situation seriously enough. “We weren’t feeling any kind of support,” said one resident. “We had to embarrass the officer to go in.”
Another problem is vandalism in overnight hours, including graffiti, smashed windows and damaged cars. According to the residents, the majority of the problems occur late on Monday nights, when O’Neill’s restaurant and bar is filled with customers, including many teenagers, enjoying their weekly hot wing special. “They just completely wreck the neighborhood,” said one resident.
Said another resident: “We know that George O’Neill has to make a living, but the feeling among people living here is that he has the cops in his pocket. Nothing is done about the drinking and the 18 and 19 year olds speeding off.”
Captain Forgione told the residents that he would reach out to Queens North to see if their DWI task force can be assigned to the area. He also promised to send patrol cars through the area, particularly on Monday nights. “I’ve never heard this complaint before,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt anybody’s businesses, but I don’t want anyone hurt either.”
Nobody from O’Neill’s was in attendance to respond to the complaints. On Tuesday, restaurant assistant manager Melissa Meadows said that no underage patrons are served alcohol and expressed doubt that the vandalism is caused by O’Neill’s customers. She said that the restaurant has received several complaints in recent days from neighbors who refused to leave their names.
“We are aware of the situation and had a couple of friends in last night to keep an eye on this,” she said. “The worst part about it is, the complaints we are getting are due to the fact that they [the customers] are of a different color other than Caucasian… The neighborhood people don’t like the fact that we have n’s and s’s in our neighborhood.”
Meadows said part of the problem might stem from the fact that many groups have to wait about 20 minutes to get a table due to the promotion’s popularity. “If they have to wait, we take their name and number and what they do is probably walk around the block a couple of times,” she said. “We have been dealing with this situation; I sat down with [owner] George [O’Neill] this morning and he’s very concerned about it.
“I wouldn’t want a bunch of underage kids sitting on my stoop waiting to eat wings, but it’s a very prejudiced neighborhood,” continued Meadows. “We are part of the community, the place has been here since 1928. We’re not looking for a bad reputation.”