Thursday, July 24, 2008

Crime's on the Rise, But Help is on the Way

Major Crime up 7%, but 14 Extra Officers Have Arrived

By Conor Greene

The area covered by the 104th Precinct has suffered the largest increase in crime so far this year within Queens North, but according to Deputy Inspector Keith Green, help is on the way in the form of additional manpower.

Through the first 28 weeks this year, major crime has increased nearly eight percent, the precinct’s commanding officer reported at last week’s COP 104 meeting in Maspeth Town Hall. Of those categories, robberies and grand larcenies are “up substantially,” said Green, while assault and burglaries are down slightly.

There were 157 robberies so far this year, compared with 126 at the same time last year, and 267 grand larcenies, up from 216 last year, said Green. Rapes have held even at eight so far, while felony assaults – the only category to rise last year – decreased from 80 to 74. Burglaries have also decreased a little, down to 213 compared with 223 last year. On the flip side, arrests for major crimes are up 15% this year, including a 119% increase in burglary arrest and a 20% increase in robbery arrests, said Green. Overall, arrests are up 12.5% for all crimes, he said.

The increase in crime marks the largest seen this year of any of eight precincts that comprise Patrol Borough Queens North, according to Green. However, he told residents at last Wednesday’s meeting that he had “a little bit of good news,” as 14 additional officers have been assigned to the 104th Precinct. They arrived at the Ridgewood stationhouse last week, and have at least six months on the job so far working with tactical units in Queens and Brooklyn.

“It is a big boost for us and is going to enable us to do a lot of things,” said Green, who said the extra manpower will help focus on non-emergency issues like quality of life complaints. “It is the result of the problems we’re having with crime,” he added. “You don’t see officers transferred from Brooklyn North often.”

The precinct has tried to focus more attention on quality of life issues, according to Green. Criminal court summonses, which mainly deal with those types of nuisance issues, are up 68% this year, with 3,922 issued so far. “We do that to decrease all types of crime, not just quality of life issue,” said Green.

The precinct has issued 25% more moving summonses so far this year, and twice as many speeding tickets, in part due to help from the highway patrol division. “We didn’t do a lot of traffic enforcement last year, so we stepped it up this year,” Deputy Inspector Green told residents. Traffic accidents are down nine percent this year, but there is still an average of 300 per month. “We still have way too many accidents in this precinct,” he Green.

Despite the precinct’s demonstrated attention to quality of life and traffic enforcement concerns, these issues remain those raised most frequently by residents. Lorraine Sciulli said that speeding drivers along streets surrounding Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village, including Juniper Boulevard North and South, continue to be an issue. Deputy Inspector Green said that the precinct will continue to monitor that area.

Manny Caruana of Maspeth complained about school buses around PS 58, which he said are parked on neighborhood streets overnight and on weekend. “They use it for personal parking all weekend,” he told the deputy inspector. “They’re taking parking away from residents.” He said that he is worried that the problem will get worse if a new school is built at 57th Avenue and 74th Street, which he said is “almost certain.” Green said that the precinct has spoken with the local PTA and has done enforcement in the area, but promised to send additional forces to patrol near PS 58. “There are forty-something schools [within the precinct] and we try to hit them all,” he said.

“When we’re out there [issuing tickets], they get the message.” As with many neighborhoods in Queens, the proliferation of graffiti vandalism is also a concern for the precinct, said Green. The precinct was number-one citywide last year in term of graffiti arrests, and boasts a “great graffiti removal program,” he said. “It is a priority for us – it’s not that we ignore it, it’s pervasive. I see it everywhere.”

Green urged residents to call 911 when they see somebody defacing property, since it’s a crime in progress. He said people arrested for graffiti within the precinct’s confines are all ages and from around the city. “It’s not just fourteen, fifteen, sixteen-year old kids,” he said. “They consider themselves artists, but they’re vandals.”

Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association and chairman of Community Board 5’s Public Safety Committee asked Green about the chances of having an impact zone established, especially in Ridgewood. “There is so much more crime there, it really warrants an impact zone,” he said.

Green said the precinct’s request earlier this year to have an impact zone created was denied because there isn’t enough violent crime in the area to warrant it. However, he hopes that the additional officers assigned to the precinct will help reduce street crime, especially overnight. He said that the majority of robberies occur during the 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift, which is when most of the new officers will be on duty.

The next COP 104 meeting will be Wednesday, September 17 at a location to be announced, since the group doesn’t meet in August, announced its president, Barry Nisenson.

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