Tag Archives: Crime

Tumbling crime numbers top 108th Precinct Council meeting in Sunnyside


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Crime plunged in the 108th Precinct over the last four weeks, the force’s commanding officer reported during Tuesday’s 108th Precinct Community Council meeting at Sunnyside Community Services.

Capt. John Travaglia said that the precinct, which covers all or parts of Long Island City, Maspeth, Sunnyside and Woodside, recorded a 28 percent drop in major crimes in the last 28 days. The plunge included a 50 percent fall in robberies, an 11 percent decrease in burglaries and a 46 percent drop in grand larcenies.

Continuing the positive news, Travaglia said the precinct recorded no incidents of rape, homicide or auto accident fatalities so far this year.

“Our numbers reflect how safe of a community we live in,” Travaglia said. “This is a wonderful place and the statistics don’t lie.”

Travaglia did, however, caution residents about preventing burglaries during the coming spring and summer months.

“As the weather gets warmer, we tend to leave our windows open to let the nice breeze into our homes,” he said, “but when you leave your home, remember to shut those windows and lock them.  These are crimes of opportunity, and we want to make sure we take that opportunity away.”

Travaglia and the council honored one officer in particular for his efforts to fight crime. P.O. John Miszuk of the precinct’s Anti-Crime Team received the Cop of the Month Award for apprehending a violent robbery suspect earlier in the month.

At 10:30 p.m. on March 21, 108th Precinct officers responded to a 911 call regarding a robbery in progress in the vicinity of 47th Avenue and 46th Street. According to Travaglia, the suspect approached his male victim from behind with a knife, demanding cash and belongings. After a brief struggle, the victim’s face and hand were slashed and the perp fled on foot.

The victim surrendered some personal property, but managed to hold on to his cellphone and call the police. Travaglia spoke with the victim over the phone and tried to get a description of the perp, as well as the victim’s location. Miszuk and his team combed the area searching for the suspect based on the description given to 911.

Miszuk apprehended the suspect a few blocks away from the crime scene, while Travaglia was still on the phone with the victim. The suspect was allegedly found in possession of a knife, as well as crack cocaine and a crack pipe.

Travaglia and Precinct Council President Diane Ballek presented Miszuk with a plaque donated by the Ridgewood Times and Times Newsweekly.

The Precinct Council also welcomed Marissa Beckett from the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV). Beckett announced the creation and expansion of several programs aimed at helping victims of domestic assault at Family Justice Centers in each borough.

“Domestic Violence is a pattern of power and control,” she explained. “It can begin as threats and can escalate to physical abuse.”

Some of the programs offered at the Queens Family Justice Center, located at 126-02 82nd Ave. in Kew Gardens, include Safe Horizon, ESL classes, parenting programs and the Healthy Relationship Training Academy aimed at preventing cyber bullying and dating violence among teens. Help is available to all regardless of their language or immigration status.

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Queens doctors charged in multimillion-dollar Brooklyn Medicaid fraud ring


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

MaleDoctorH0905_M_150_B_G-624x480

Several Queens medical practitioners were among 23 people indicted in Brooklyn for allegedly scamming the Medicaid system out of nearly $7 million and offering free sneakers to low-income and homeless people in exchange for undergoing unnecessary medical tests and treatments, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced Tuesday.

The 199-count indictment alleges the defendants carried out a scheme in which Medicaid recipients from low-income neighborhoods, homeless shelters and welfare offices were recruited to undergo unnecessary medical tests, and the patients received free footwear such as sneakers, shoes and boots.

Participating patients were taken to a clinic and examined by a podiatrist. The physicians then supplied the patients, even though they did not have foot problems, with footwear and medical equipment such ankle braces, knee braces or orthotic insoles.

According to the indictment, the defendants then allegedly submitted more than $6.9 million in fraudulent claims to Medicaid, Medicaid-managed health care organizations and Medicare for the medical devices.

“These defendants allegedly exploited the most vulnerable members of our society and raked in millions of dollars by doing so,” Thompson said. “The many poor people who were allegedly targeted at homeless shelters, welfare offices and soup kitchens and referred to as ‘guinea pigs’ by the defendants were exploited for hours, if not days, just because they needed a pair of shoes. That so many doctors allegedly participated in this elaborate scheme to defraud a health care system designed to help the poor is truly disgraceful.”

Thompson identified Eric Vainer, 43, of Riverside Boulevard, as the alleged mastermind and leader of the scheme, and his mother, Polina Vainer, 66, of Keating Place, in Staten Island, as his second in command.

The Queens defendants are Susan Nutakor-Doh, 48, of Forest Hills; Taesoo Kim, 28, of Long Island City; Dr. Bennu Ogorek, DPM, 64, of Forest Hills; Dr. Avia Jackson, DPM, 43, of Jamaica; and Isaacs, DPM, 63, of Flushing.

Some of the defendants were arraigned on March 31 before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on various charges including enterprise corruption, first-degree money laundering, first-degree scheme to defraud, first-degree health care fraud, first-degree falsifying business records and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, among several other charges.

The defendants were ordered to return to court on May 19; each faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted on the enterprise corruption count.

More charges may be forthcoming, as the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York reportedly obtained warrants to seize 13 bank accounts into which payments from the defrauded, federally funded programs could be traced.

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Cops catch suspected Ridgewood car thief


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

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He should have found somewhere else to park.

The day after allegedly taking a man’s ride at gunpoint, a Ridgewood man was locked up by police after officers spotted the stolen vehicle parked on a neighborhood street.

Law enforcement sources said Gergory A. Spok, 26, allegedly attempted to steal a 2000 Chevrolet Malibu on Summerfield Street at about 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25.

According to authorities, Spok allegedly got into the driver’s seat after the rightful owner briefly exited the car to open a driveway gate.

When the owner returned to his vehicle, police noted, Spok pointed a black firearm at him, then sped away from the scene in the car. The theft was later reported to the 104th Precinct.

According to the criminal complaint provided by the Queens District Attorney’s office, Det. Oleg Matat of the 104th Precinct Detective Squad spotted the stolen vehicle at around 1:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon parked in front of a location on Forest Avenue. After a check of the car’s license plate confirmed that it was stolen, officers were dispatched to stake out the car until someone attempted to enter it.

P.O. Louis Marinacci responded to the scene and, from his own police vehicle, reportedly observed Spok enter the stolen Malibu and turn on the engine. Police said the officer stopped Spok without incident and took him into custody.

Spok was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on Friday on charges including first-degree armed robbery, second-degree robbery and criminal possession of stolen property. He remains held on $5,000 bail and is due back in court on April 10.

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110 Precinct CO talks new post, future plans


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

The 110th Precinct, which encompasses Corona and Elmhurst, has a new top cop and he is ready to get to know his new community and continue the work his predecessor achieved.

Captain Christopher Manson was named the new commanding officer of the western Queens precinct and started at his new post on March 17. He is taking over from Deputy Inspector Ronald Leyson, who after spending the last three years at the 110th Precinct was reassigned to the NYPD’s Queens North Detective Bureau.

For the past two years, Manson was the commanding officer at the 104th Precinct, which covers Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village and Maspeth.

“I had a great time there, great community. Crime went down about 11 percent over two years. We did a lot of good work,” Manson said. “We hope to continue that here. I inherited a very good, smooth running operation from my predecessor Deputy Inspector Leyson.”

Before taking command of the 104th Precinct, the 27-year NYPD veteran was assigned for a few months at the 114th Precinct, and before that was the executive officer for two years at the 109th Precinct in Flushing.

Since starting at his new post in Corona, Manson said he has been getting know the community and its leaders, and plans to continue the outreach.

“It’s a good place. I’m happy to be here,” Manson said. “I think right now the precinct is set up right because they have a lot of manpower that works late at night.”

He added that in the year to date, crime had been down 8 percent; however, domestic violence had increased in the confines of the precinct. Based on this data, Manson said he hopes to “take a heavy look” at the issue of domestic violence.

Among other initiatives from his past post, Manson has brought over weekly deployment meetings in which he gets together with specific units of the precinct and goes over certain patterns and trends going on.

The units are then committed to addressing certain crimes in specific areas within the precinct.

“Whatever it is these different units from the precinct are committed to these crime zones. It’s worked in the past and continues to work,” Manson said.

Manson added that there other things he might want to bring over from his previous post but he still needs to get to know the 110th Precinct a bit more and then decide what should be done.

He plans to continue the precinct’s social media presence with taking over the Twitter account @NYPD110Pct.

“I’m the 110 rookie,” he said. “I’ve got a lot to learn.”

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New 108th Precinct commanding officer wants to ‘harden’ community against crimes


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

The new top cop at the 108th Precinct wants to enlist the public in the battle against crime as he steps into a new job he said he feels lucky to have landed.

Captain John Travaglia was named commanding officer of the precinct, covering Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Maspeth, on Nov. 17, replacing Captain Brian Hennessy, who was assigned commanding officer of the 115th Precinct.

“We don’t choose where we work in the NYPD, they tell us where we work and my lottery numbers came out. I hit the lottery to be in Long Island City,” Travaglia said. “[Hennessy] left me running with a well-oiled machine.”

Just a few weeks into his new assignment, Travaglia was able to present good news during the Dec. 4 Community Board 2 monthly meeting, when he reported that crime in the precinct had dropped significantly over the previous 28 days.

Robberies were down 8 percent, felony assaults down 9 percent, burglaries down 6 percent, grand larceny down 15 percent, and reports of stolen cars were down 50 percent, according to Travaglia.

In his new position, the 22-year NYPD veteran plans to continue what Hennessy accomplished at the precinct, such as Community Friday, which involves taking time to focus especially hard on quality-of-life issues in the precinct.

Using his experience from a previous assignment at NYPD Highway Patrol, Travaglia also said he wants to do more traffic enforcement, since an important issue in the precinct includes high-volume thoroughfares that carry thousands of commuters to and from work. He plans to emphasize enforcement of Vison Zero — a program championed by Mayor de Blasio to reduce traffic deaths — and also create a enhanced effort to crack down on drunken driving.

“There is nothing more important than getting a drunk driver off the road. I can equate it to taking a loaded illegal firearm off the street,” Travaglia said. “If we can somehow prevent a person from being injured, if not killed, that’s just as good as saving someone from a violent demise due to a crime.”

In regards to crime in the neighborhoods, Travaglia said he sees the same types of crimes that he did in his previous posts at the 114th and 104th precincts, such as property-based burglaries, car theft, and grand larceny.

In order to keep the number of such crimes down, Travaglia said he would like to educate residents on how they can help “harden the target” and lessen their chances of becoming crime victims. For example, residents making sure their windows and doors are tightly locked, making sure valuables aren’t left in cars and being more vigilant of their personal property and information.

“It’s not at all to make people feel like the police aren’t here to prevent this. We are here, [but] we cannot be everywhere. I wish we could stop all the bad people from doing this, but we cannot be everywhere,” Travaglia said. “It really is the community being the eyes and ears for the police department. We need people to call. If something looks out of place, we need to know about it.”

Travaglia said he wants to hear from the community, and that includes concerns about problems.

“I welcome complaints, I welcome compliments. I want people to attend community meetings,” he said. “We need to know what the problems are. If someone sees a problem, we need it to be reported. We cannot work a solution if we don’t know what the problem is.”

The next 108th Community Council Meeting is scheduled for Jan. 27, 2015, at Sunnyside Community Services.

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Crime down in the 108th Precinct


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

With just three weeks under his belt as the new commanding officer of the 108th Precinct, Captain John Travaglia had some good news to share with the community.

At Community Board 2’s monthly meeting on Thursday night, along with introducing himself to board members and the audience, Travaglia said they have seen a decrease in crime in the precinct covering Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Maspeth.

In the last 28 days, robberies have been down 8 percent, felony assaults 9 percent, burglaries 6 percent, grand larceny 15 percent, and stolen cars have been down 50 percent, according to Travaglia.

“We’re heading in the right direction. I can’t make promises that it will always stay that way but I hope it does. I hope I can keep up the good work,” Travaglia said at the meeting. “I credit a lot of this reduction to Brian Hennessy and the policies he had in place, and I look forward to continuing those efforts.”

Travaglia replaced Captain Brian Hennessy, who on Nov. 6 became the commanding officer of the 115th Precinct. Before becoming the new top dog at the 108th Precinct, Travaglia was at the 114th Precinct, and before that at the 104th Precinct.

“One of the best holiday Christmas presents I ever got was being assigned to the 108th Precinct,” Travaglia said. “I took over the 108th Precinct from Captain Hennessy. He did a wonderful job. He left me with a well-oiled machine. Our men and women are working very hard and very efficiently, and I just hope I can continue it. It’s pretty big footsteps to follow in.”

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Police prepare for Black Friday shopping rush in Flushing and College Point


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of The Shops at SkyView Center

Police are preparing for Black Friday in Flushing and College Point by beefing up police presence and posting traffic officers on busy roads, according to authorities.

While there weren’t many crimes in the area during last year’s Black Friday, police at the 109th Precinct hope that the increase in police presence will prevent the possibility of shoppers getting robbed and stores being burglarized, according Detective Kevin O’Donnell.

“We’re expecting large crowds to be coming out to Flushing and College Point and we want everyone to have a safe Black Friday,” he said.

The police will be concentrating on two areas. The first location, The Shops at SkyView Center, will be particularly important to police because the Target housed in the mall will stay open all night on Friday into Saturday. The other area is in College Point on a section of 20th Avenue lined with strip malls. Just north of Flushing, the shopping center has several strip malls next to one another. And while there is parking, traffic backups from exit 15 off the Whitestone Expressway on regular weekends.

“Traffic is going to be a mess out there but we’re hoping to keep things as smooth as possible,” O’Donnell said.

Shoppers can expect to see an increase in police beginning on Thursday afternoon, a concentrated presence that will continue into Saturday.

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106th Precinct has major crime drop this month


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

The 106th Precinct had the largest crime drop of any precinct in the city during the last four-week period, the precinct commander told The Courier.

Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff said the 106th Precinct had a 32.3 percent drop in serious crime from Sept. 29 to Oct. 26 compared to the same period in 2013.

Schiff said the nearly one-third decrease came about through better interaction with the community.

“By keeping the community informed, residents are in a better position to help out the police,” Schiff said. “My cops have been working hard and it shows.”

Overall, major crime fell from 164 incidents to 111 during the period and the precinct’s most persistent plague, auto theft, was nearly cut in half, from 29 car thefts in 2013 to 15 for the same period this year.

Robberies tumbled from 34 to 24, burglaries fell from 23 to 15 and felony assaults dropped from 21 to 16. The largest drop in any category was in grand larceny, from 55 to 38.

“We’ve changed up our strategies on the ways to attack these types of crimes,” Schiff said. “And it seems to be working.”

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Woman says ex-con stole her Laurelton house with fake deed transfer


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo by  Christopher Bride/ PropertyShark

She may have been hoodwinked out of the neighborhood.

A woman is alleging that an ex-con and his sons stole her three-bedroom Tudor family home in Laurelton with a fake deed transfer, according a published report.

Jennifer Merin is fighting in court to remove Darrell Beatty and his two sons from the home, while a criminal investigation is ongoing as to whether there is a crime ring behind fake deeds, The New York Post reported Sunday.

Merin was raised in the house with her mother and inherited the residence decades ago after her mother died, according to The Post.  She now lives in Manhattan and never rented the property, but paid the utilities and maintained it as “a sanctuary” to her family, the paper reported.

A jump in the water bill signaled to Merin something fishy was going on with the house.

She called cops and learned the Beatty family had moved into the house and said it legally belonged to them and when she went to the residence herself, she realized her possessions and car were missing and the locks where changed, according to The Post.

Beatty said in court papers that he rented the house from someone named Khalid Moore and paid $10,000 in rent, the newspaper said.

A deed transfer filed in city records last year showed that he obtained the house from an “Edith Moore.”

The Finance Department confirmed the deed was fake, The Post reported.

Beatty has not been charged with a crime.

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Pair swipes $10K in bracelets from Jackson Heights jewelry store: cops


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A man and woman stole about $10,000 in jewelry from a Jackson Heights store last month, according to authorities.

Police said that the suspects went into the 74th Street store, Omkar Jewellers, around 7 p.m. on Aug. 21 and the woman distracted the clerk while the man reached over the counter and took four bangle bracelets.

The woman is described as Hispanic, about 5 feet 4 inches tall and 180 pounds, and was wearing glasses, a black blouse and gray jeans. The man is described as Hispanic and about 5 feet 10 inches tall, and was wearing a blue baseball hat, red shirt and white shorts.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

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Howard Beach residents to start neighborhood watch group


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Image Courtesy of Joe Thompson

BY SALVATORE LICATA

Howard Beach is hoping to add a few more sets of eyes and ears to its streets in hopes of preventing crime.

The Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol, is a soon-to-be nonprofit group of residents that will be keeping a watchful eye on the neighborhood. In an effort to keep crime down, volunteers of the group will patrol the neighborhood and report to the police any suspicious activity that may be going on.

“Howard Beach residents are screaming for assistance,” Joe Thompson, president and founder of the organization, said. “We are going to be the eyes and ears of the neighborhood and it is up to us as a community to report any crimes.”

Thompson said he decided to start the patrol group after hearing resident’s concerns at community meetings.

Crime is down slightly so far this year in the 106th Precinct, but a recent rash of burglaries in Howard Beach set off fears in the community.

Thompson has over 30 years of experience in community watch groups and was an auxiliary police officer for 10 years. He said he hopes this group will help to prevent crime from happening but also noted that his patrol units will take no physical action if they see suspicious activity.

“We will have uniforms but no weapons at all,” Thompson said. “We will not take any action against criminals, our job is to just report what we see to the police. We don’t want to be seen as vigilantes.”

Thompson said he has met with the 106th Precinct and government officials and has their okay to go along with the program as long as the group goes through the proper training and follows the guidelines of community watch groups, as stated by the community affairs office of the NYPD.

“We are always looking for people to get involved,” said Kenneth Zorn, the community affairs officer for the 106th Precinct. “It is a large commitment but these people volunteer their time to help improve the quality of life for the community.”

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo also offered his support to Thompson – but not without some concern.

“We must make it very clear that volunteers must go through the proper training before they patrol,” Addabbo said. “But if it is done correctly it is a positive community program.”

The Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol will hold their first meeting/recruitment session on June 24 at 7:30 p.m. in St. Helen’s School at 157-10 83rd St.

Thompson hopes to gain support for his initiative with other residents at the meeting.

For more information follow Thompson via Twitter @HowardBeachCOP.

 

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Car break-ins increasing in Glendale, police and residents say


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Joann Guidici

Glendale is seeing a rise in car break-ins this year, according to police.

During a community meeting on May 20, Capt. Christopher Manson, commanding officer of the 104th Precinct, said that compared to last year, there was a rise in thefts from automobiles.

He was unable to provide exact stats at the meeting, but, through May 18, the latest state available on the NYPD website, there were marked increases in both grand larceny (up 21 percent) and petit larceny (up 16.5 percent).

The spike in crime is leaving many residents of this usually quiet neighborhood surprised and frustrated with cops.

Joann Guidici, a resident of Glendale, found her car broken into on a recent Saturday morning. The car had been parked on 72nd Street and the driver window was smashed but nothing valuable had been stolen from the car.

“They must’ve done it for the high,” she said. “Because they didn’t take any of the valuable stuff.”

She noted that there had been two pairs of expensive, designer glasses in the car that were left untouched.

Brian Dooley, a member of the Glendale Property Owners Organization, had a similar experience.

“My car was broken into twice,” he said. Unlike Guidici, there were no broken windows. “The first time I thought that we had left the car unlocked. But after the second incident, I knew that they must be using a magnetic device of some sort.”

Manson echoed Dooley’s suspicion about the use of a magnetic device.

“Most of the cases we’ve responded to are with cars that don’t have any broken windows or picked locks,” he said during the meeting. “So we think that whoever is doing that is using some kind of magnetic device.”

Police say they are doing everything they can to stop the spike in car break-ins, which are mostly occurring in Glendale with a few also in Middle Village. But Guidici said that it isn’t enough.

“This has been an issue for over a year,” she said. “The 104th Precinct wasn’t very helpful. They need to step it up.”

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Cops arrest alleged catalytic converter thieves in Flushing


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File graphic image

Police arrested two men in Flushing for allegedly sawing catalytic converters off multiple trucks in a U-Haul storage lot.

The device — which contains precious metals inside, like platinum — has been the target of a costly new citywide crime trend.

Dwayne Longmore, 31, and Neil Stephens, 33, were arrested Jan. 4 and charged with grand larceny for allegedly removing eight catalytic converters out of the 36-30 College Point Blvd. lot, police said.

The stolen devices totaled nearly $5,000, according to Crime Prevention Officer Anthony Lo Verme of the 109th Precinct.

Executive Officer Captain Tommy Ng said the precinct has not seen other catalytic converter thefts since the arrests.

The 111th Precinct, which reported a spike in November and December, is also experiencing a lull in the crime this month, though other grand larcenies are spiking, Crime Prevention Officer Luigi Galano said.

Car thefts and vehicle break-ins in Bayside have increased, as drivers are still leaving valuables unattended and in plain view.

“It’s enough for us to realize there’s a problem,” Galano said.

The crimes are taking place near the Bayside Gables and from Northern Boulevard to 35th Avenue.

The NYPD said parking in well-lit areas near traffic, being aware of surroundings and checking on cars, even while at home, could help avoid thefts.

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Toyota Sequoias targeted in costly new crime trend


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Toyota

Toyota Sequoias have become the target of a costly new crime trend in northeast Queens.

Thieves are stealing catalytic converters off the bottom of the SUVs in the 111th Precinct and selling them for the precious metals inside, like platinum, the precinct said.

The needed device that prevents engine exhaust gasses from polluting the environment is worth at least $200 to criminals, police said. But replacing the converter can set car owners back at least $1,000.

“It’s a new thing,” Deputy Inspector Jason Huerta said. “It’s very expensive, and you’d have to get your car towed.”

Four catalytic converters have been taken off Toyota Sequoias in the last two months within the precinct that covers Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck, Auburndale, Hollis Hills and Fresh Meadows, Huerta said.

The crime, difficult to prevent, happens in about one minute, according to the executive officer. At least two vehicles have been tampered with on residential streets and even driveways.

It sounds like “a very loud rumble” when the car is started without a catalytic converter, Huerta said.

The deputy inspector said parking in well-lit areas, being aware of surroundings and checking on cars, even while at home, could help avoid the theft.

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Op-ed: District Attorney Richard A. Brown delivers year-end message to the residents of Queens County


| oped@queenscourier.com

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown – who begins his twenty-third year as Queens County’s chief law enforcement officer in 2014 – delivered the following year-end message to the residents of Queens County in which he noted that Queens County was again among the City’s leaders in crime reduction in 2013.

District Attorney Brown said, “During the more than two decades that I have had the honor and privilege of serving as district attorney of Queens County, my office has steadfastly committed itself to ensuring a safe environment for those who live and work in Queens County. Through our law-enforcement initiatives and the utilization of an array of cutting-edge interventions and prevention programs, we have made tremendous progress in accomplishing that goal which, in turn, has contributed greatly to New York City’s historic decline in serious and violent crime. Over the last twenty years, overall crime in Queens is down by 77.7 percent, murders have fallen 78.1 percent, robberies are down 76.3 percent, burglaries are down 78.9 percent and felony assaults are down 40.9 percent.  As Mayor Bloomberg noted earlier this week during his visit to Queens, the drop in crime has made ‘Queens a safer place to live, work and visit than ever before.’”

District Attorney Brown added, “We continue to be, I believe, among the best and busiest prosecutor’s offices in the country.  Last year our office handled more than 70,000 arrest cases – cases running the gamut from quality of life offenses to serious violent felonies.  And, by any standard, we handled those cases efficiently and judiciously.  We have a presence in all of the diverse communities of our county in seeking to prevent crime and in helping to turn young lives around.  In sum, we continue to have the respect of our law enforcement colleagues and the confidence of the people of Queens County.”

District Attorney Brown continued, “In pursuing the office’s core mission to increase public safety and reduce crime in 2013, we have vigorously pursued hate crime cases against those individuals who chose their victims based on religion, sexuality, the color of their skin and other factors.  We have aggressively gone after illegal cigarette traffickers, organized trademark counterfeiting rings and legitimate businesses and franchises that annually cheat the government out of millions of dollars of much needed State and City revenue. On a local level, we have focused our attention on homeowners who impact on the quality of life of their neighbors by illegally sub-dividing their private residences into multiple dwellings that potentially can put the lives of tenants and first-responders at grave risk. We continue to do our part in protecting our younger residents by going after on-line child pornographers, as well as sex traffickers and sexual predators who attempt to meet underage children on-line for sexual relations.”

District Attorney Brown added, “The Queens County District Attorney’s Office has long been recognized as a nationwide leader in the number of court-authorized wiretaps that we handle. Our Special Prosecutions Division runs a host of crime prevention, school-based and community outreach programs and staff members attend our precinct council and community board meetings.  We have dedicated Child Advocacy and Family Justice Centers – and a Domestic Violence Bureau that maintains the highest domestic violence conviction rate and the lowest dismissal rate in the City and which takes more pre-indictment pleas than the rest of the City combined. We statistically maintain the  best arrest to arraignment time in the City and because of our assertive bail jumping program – in which defendants are indicted if they fail to appear in court for their felony cases – we have the lowest failure-to-appear in court rate  in the city.”

District Attorney Brown said that among the office’s successful prosecutions in 2013 were:

• People v. Urban Fermin and Darius Lowery.  Fermin and Lowery were convicted of the attempted murder of a police officer during a one-hour crime spree in which they shot at a marked police vehicle attempting to stop them after they stole a car, burglarized a house and robbed a woman on the street at gunpoint.  Fermin was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison and Lowery was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

• People v. Simon A. Watts.  Watts, a former Springfield Gardens public school teacher, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for sexually abusing five of his students – four females and one male who ranged between eight and ten in age. The incidents all took place at the school – many during class time.

• People v. Hikeem L. Green and Darcell Marshall.  Green and his girlfriend, Marshall, were sentenced to up to 12 years and up to three years in prison, respectively, following their guilty pleas to sex trafficking in connection with the prostitution of two young women – a 19-year-old upstate runaway and a 20-year-old from New York City – against their will.

• People v. Natasha Munchkin Marks.  Marks was sentenced to a term of one to three years in prison for jumping bail shortly after pleading guilty in March 2007 under New York State’s hate crime statute to stealing an 85-year-Howard Beach man’s life savings by falsely claiming to need the money to pay medical bills and to help start up a business and for investments.  The bail jumping prison sentence is to be served consecutive to the two to six years in prison she was sentenced to in absentia in May 2007 on the larceny charges.

In addition, District Attorney Brown said his Investigations Division conducted “many significant long term investigations over the past year into criminal enterprises throughout Queens County. Particularly telling is our auto theft numbers.  Since 1991, my first year as district attorney, the rate of auto thefts in Queens has plunged more than 90 percent.  This record-setting drop in crime was accomplished, in part, by focusing our attention on organized car theft rings and by curbing the illegal scrapping of stolen cars. In 2013, we continued to put pressure on the drug dealers and gangs hawking their illicit wares at the city’s housing developments and elsewhere by taking part in major anti-drug initiatives with the New York City Police Department.”

District Attorney Brown added, “New York City’s two major airports are located in Queens County and are often the first point of contact for tourists. As tourism is one of New York’s most revenue-producing industries, it is vitally important to our economic health that we provide a safe and welcoming environment at our airports. In carrying out that responsibility, we earlier in the year took down a group of contract baggage handlers who were charged with stealing thousands of dollars worth of luggage items from arriving and departing flights at John F. Kennedy Airport when they were supposed to be loading or unloading the luggage. We also continue to prosecute unregulated taxis and unscrupulous drivers at the airports who unlawfully solicit fares and charge exorbitant rates to drive passengers the shortest of distances.”

In addition to his office’s many investigations during 2013, District Attorney Brown noted that this past September his office co-hosted the New York City Abusive Head Trauma/Shaken Baby Syndrome Conference, a biennial event presented in partnership with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York.  The conference was attended by more than 300 doctors, medical examiners, prosecutors, detectives, nurses and defense attorneys. Among the topics discussed at the conference were the challenges in diagnosing Shaken Baby Syndrome as opposed to accidental trauma and the inherent difficulties in investigating and prosecuting such cases.

Also in June and September, the office hosted two open public forums at the Campus Magnet High School in Cambria Height that focused on the so-called “Don’t Snitch” street code.  “The purpose of the initiative is to combat the destructive ‘Don’t Snitch’ street message that has hindered the pursuit of justice for violent crimes committed in Queens communities,” said District Attorney Brown.  “The forums provided an overview of the Don’t Snitch street code and gave residents of Queens County a platform for safe, open discussion on the topic and an opportunity to ask questions.”

District Attorney Brown noted with pride on behalf of his office Mayor Bloomberg’s comments from last summer.  “In a tenure of more than twenty years, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown has made his office, I think it’s fair to say, one of the most widely respected prosecutor’s offices in the nation.”

District Attorney Brown concluded his message by wishing all a happy and healthy New Year and by saying, “The reason why I have so much enjoyed my tenure as District Attorney over these many years, why it is that I’ve found those years to be so rewarding, and why I look forward to continuing to serve as the District Attorney of this county for many years to come, is the successes that we have enjoyed in lowering the level of violence in our County and improving the quality of life of the people of our great county and because of the dedication and professionalism of those with whom we work. I am optimistic that by continuing the very successful strategies that we have employed over the years we, together with our law enforcement colleagues, can make Queens County even safer in 2014.”

 

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