Seeing a car on cinder blocks has become almost the norm in south Queens, according to police, as the Howard Beach area has been hit with a string of tire and rim thefts.
Since Dec. 1, there have been about 59 tire and rim theft cases throughout the 106th Precinct. Lindenwood has experienced the brunt of the crime hit, as 21 of the 59 thefts have taken place in the neighborhood. The number of these cases has increased, as the three months before Dec. 1 saw 27 thefts in the precinct.
“This has really been hurting us,” said Deputy Inspector Jeffrey D. Schiff, commanding officer of the 106th Precinct. “We’re going to keep after this and continue to throw different operations at these criminals.”
Along with extra officers, Schiff has expanded his patrol in the Lindenwood area, especially during early morning hours when most crimes take place. He has been sending more crime teams out — both plain-clothed and uniformed officers — who have been on the lookout for cars with “reasonable suspicion” as it is not easy for officers to catch the preps in the act.
Police said it takes mere seconds for experienced thieves to jack up a car, put it on bricks and pull the tires off. The crooks work in small crews, which shortens the amount of time it takes to steal the tires and flee the area.
But just last week, Schiff said, the 106th Precinct caught a group of three men from Brooklyn who did a tire jacking in the Howard Beach area. They stopped a car coming out of a parking lot in Howard Beach for reasonable suspicion as it was in the early hours of the morning and there was no reason for a car to be in that lot.
Upon their search, the officers found four tires and rims from a Toyota. They arrested the men, who didn’t have a major history of tire theft on their records, and later returned the tires to the person whose car they were stolen from near 157th Avenue in Howard Beach.
This saved the car owner a large sum of money as replacing tires and rims can cost up to $3,000, according to Det. Kenneth Zorn of the 106th Precinct Community Affairs Unit.
The 106th Precinct continues to send out fliers warning residents that late model Hondas, Nissans, Toyotas and Mercedes are being targeted for their rims. They recommend that car owners use wheel locks, motion sensor lights or an alarm with a mercury tilt switch to make their cars harder targets.
Schiff said he will continue to beef up patrol around the Lindenwood and Howard Beach areas and is investigating different ways he can lure these perps into a trap. He has called the Queens District Attorney’s office about the three recently arrested thieves and asked for “aggressive prosecution and high bail” to deter other thieves from coming into the area and trying to steal tires.
“We will continue to monitor the area and have officers there,” said Schiff. “Hopefully we can catch more of these criminals.”