Thursday, December 17, 2009

Concerns Over Burglaries, Railroad Security and Response Time in 104th Precinct

By Conor Greene

A number of concerns regarding the 104th Precinct were discussed at a public safety meeting this week, but with no officers in attendance, many of the questions remain unanswered.

Items slated for discussion at Tuesday’s Community Board 5 Public Safety Committee meeting included a review of the precinct’s current staffing levels, updates on crime statistics and concerns over the safety of freight train cars passing through the area.

A member of the precinct’s Community Affairs Unit said on Wednesday that “conflicts in our schedule” prevented the precinct from sending an officer to the meeting. Regardless, he noted that certain issues, such as staffing levels or personal assignments, are not discussed in public due to security concerns. One aspect of the precinct’s crime statistics that was discussed at length is an increase in burglaries, which is the only major crime that is up so far this year compared with 2008.

To date, there have been 415 reported break-ins, up more than 14 percent from the 363that had occurred at the same point last year. Over the past 28 years, burglaries are up more than 70 percent, with 46 reported this year compared with 27 last year.

All other major crimes are down this year compared with the same point in 2008, including robbery (263 to 290), grand larceny (464 to 515) and grand larceny auto (287 to 336). There has been one murder this year compared with four that occurred in two separate incidents last year, and there have been 13 rapes compared with 17 last year. However, all categories except murder are up over the past 28 day period, including double the amount of felony assaults (16 to eight) and grand larceny auto (25 to 18).

Another issue discussed in depth was security along the railroad corridors and train yards located within the community board’s confines. A representative for Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Glendale) said that pushing the rail operator CSX to ensure that all necessary safety precautions are being taken is a top priority.

While nobody from the precinct was able to discuss sensitive issues such as staffing levels and response time, board members in attendance expressed concerns over both issues. Robert Holden, who chairs the Public Safety Committee and is president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said he has been hearing complaints from neighbors that there aren’t enough officers to patrol the area or respond to crimes.

One problem, according to Holden, is that a patrol car dedicated to following up on prior crimes was nixed. That has led to a number of complaints from residents who said they had to wait “five, six, seven hours or longer” to report crimes. “We’ve been getting a lot of complaints about that,” he said, adding that the problem will likely be compounded when officers are reassigned for the upcoming terror trials in Manhattan. “That is going to overburden our precinct, which is understaffed already,” he said.

Another complaint from residents, said Holden, is officers discouraging victims from filing police reports. Several residents complained about both of these issues at recent civic meetings, leading Holden to wonder, “How often is it happening?”

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