Thursday, April 2, 2009

Minor Drop in Crime in 104th Precinct

Trends Discussed at JPCA Meeting

By Conor Greene

Residents at last week’s Juniper Park Civic Association meeting were brought up to date on local crime trends by members of the 104th Precinct. Recent incidents include a street robbery involving a 102-year-old victim and the theft of tires and rims from cars parked overnight on neighborhood streets.

Lt. Jerry Lester kicked off the meeting last Thursday in Our Lady of Hope auditorium in Middle Village by providing residents with statistics comparing the number of major incidents this year compared with the same time last year.

So far, there has been one murder within the confines of the 104th Precinct, when an elderly man was found murdered inside his Ridgewood home. That case has gone unsolved; last year there were no murders at this point.

There have been two rapes so far, compared with six last year. Robberies are down, with 51 this year compared to 64. Felony assaults have declined by two from the 28 reported at this point in 2008, while burglaries have dropped from 102 to 96, said Lester. Grand larceny has dropped by 25 from 110 last year, and while grand larceny auto has risen slightly, from 74 last year to 77 this year.

The lieutenant said that the majority of assaults occurred at night, with many taking place inside or near area bars. “It’s early in the morning, they’re intoxicated and the bottles come out and the knives come out,” he said.

Earlier that day, a 102-year-old woman and her 89-year-old friend were walking down Ridgewood sidewalk when somebody approached them and stole her purse. The woman wasn’t injured, and while detectives are investigating, Lt. Lester said cases involving elderly victims often prove difficult to solve. “At that age, [often] they can’t identify the person,” he said. “We’re hoping that somebody from the community saw something.”

With the warm weather approaching, Lt. Lester urged residents to be on the lookout for graffiti vandals, and to call 911 to report them. He stressed that residents should not call 311 if they see the crime in progress.

The lieutenant also reported that the precinct’s narcotics enforcement team recently carried out several drug busts. Using search warrants, they found at least a pound of marijuana along with prescription drugs and cocaine during a raid in Ridgewood earlier that day, he said. Another search had been executed in the same area just weeks prior. “They do a pretty good job with narcotics [enforcement],” he said.

Updating residents on an ongoing problem, Lt. Lester said there have been three more incidents of tires and rims stolen from cars, usually while parked overnight. “It’s a problem citywide, statewide and countrywide,” he said. Cars targeted are usually 2006 models or newer, and the problem has been ongoing in the Maspeth area for months now. Lt. Lester also reminded residents to never leave any valuables in the car, especially GPS systems and shopping bags.

There have also been several residential burglaries, with the perps often entering through unlocked ground-floor rear windows and doors. “They test it, and if no one is around, they’re going in,” warned Lt. Lester.

A resident asked Lt. Lester about the sudden increase in the number of NYPD helicopters flying low over Maspeth, something others in the audience said also bothers them. “One in the morning, I’m outside looking at a helicopter that says police,” she said. The lieutenant said it might be part of training exercises and promised that the precinct’s Community Affairs Unit would look into it.

Another resident raised another issue that seems to becoming more and more common: individuals going door to door and offering residents a discount on their energy bill. While these people are sometimes employed by a legitimate company, “there is a scam going on,” warned Lt. Lester. He said they often work in pairs, with one distracting the homeowner while the other sneaks away to steal valuables. “I wouldn’t let anyone in my house,” he said. “If you see anyone suspicious, call 911.”

A topic of concern for Robert Holden, president of the JPCA, is the amount of commercial vehicles parked overnight on public streets. The problem has gotten much worse since the precinct lost its midnight patrol, which included an officer dedicated to ticketing offending vehicles. Holden also said there is a dangerous situation beneath the Long Island Expressway, where residents are forced to walk behind a row of trucks, out of view from the street. “It’s a very dangerous situation,” he said.

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