It’s been a summer that south Queens will certainly want to forget.
The Karina Vetrano murder case and the execution of an Ozone Park imam topped the agenda during the 106th Precinct Community Council’s first meeting back from a summer hiatus on Wednesday night, Sept. 14, at the Ozone Park stationhouse.
The meeting began with updates on the three murders that struck the community this summer — all of which made national news. The first, on Aug. 2, was the murder of Vetrano, who was found dead by her father in Spring Creek Park in Howard Beach after she disappeared while jogging.
Captain James Fey, the commanding officer of the 106th Precinct, said officers were still looking for a suspect. DNA samples found at the crime scene did not match anyone already in the criminal DNA databank, meaning the suspect is someone not known to police.
Fey added that several cameras have since been placed at Spring Creek Park, paid for by an allocation from Borough President Melinda Katz. He said he expects more cameras to come soon.
“One problem is we cannot view what’s going on live with these cameras,” he said, explaining that the cameras don’t broadcast live feeds, but record video for police to review later if necessary. “But I think it’s also a deterrent just having them there.”
Fey also announced that National Park Police would be coordinating patrols in the park, which is adjacent to federal parkland in Jamaica Bay.
“You’ll be seeing a lot more of them,” he said.
The captain then turned to the second high-profile homicide case, on Aug. 13, when Maulama Akonjee, an imam of an Ozone Park mosque, and friend Thara Uddin were assassinated on Liberty Avenue in broad daylight.
Fey noted that an arrest was made fairly quickly — within 36 hours of the murders — due to great police work and help of witnesses. He also added that the police have since developed a great working relationship with the mosques in the precinct command.
“If there is any silver lining in this tragedy, it’s that,” he said.
In spite of all the bad news, however, Fey announced that major crimes were down more than 11 percent for the year in the precinct, including robberies, which were down by 25 percent on the year and 50 percent in the previous 28 days.
“There are still pockets of problems,” he said, noting a recent trend of robberies in City Line on Glenmore and Pitkin avenues that has been occurring also on the Brooklyn side of the border. In those instances, robbers target commuters coming off the A train at Grant Avenue, which is just on the other side of the borough border.
Fey also acknowledged several other concerns the precinct is working on, including a trend of tire and rims being stolen from cars in Lindenwood and car break-ins across the command.
Amid a number of recent vehicular crashes that resulted in fatalities, Fey told attendees at the meeting that the precinct issued more summonses this summer for driving infractions, including loud music and speeding; more DWI arrests were also made.
Two of the precinct’s members, Police Officers Reed Darby and Frank Sarro, were honored as Cops of the Month for their police work in apprehending the suspect in that crash. The man charged, Jairam Budhu, 58, had felt the scene of the accident. Darby and Sarro managed to track him down to his home in South Richmond Hill and arrested him two days later.
“They did amazing police work and really deserve credit for catching this guy,” Fey said.