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Photo via Shutterstock
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Car thieves have been driving up crime rates in the 104th Precinct.

The 104th Precinct is again seeing a downward trend in crime compared to last year, and over the last 28-day period, however auto thefts are still proving to be a pervasive problem within the precinct’s neighborhoods.

Caption John Mastronardi, commanding officer of the 104th Precinct, told attendees at the 104th Precinct Community Council (104PCC) meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 19, in Middle Village that over the last 28 days crime across the precinct is down over 18 percent compared to last year, but grand larceny autos (GLAs) are have been on the rise.

“The only thing that’s driving up crimes this month are GLAs,” Mastronardi said. “GLAs happen to be up just by five, 17 versus 12 … so your cars are getting stolen at a little bit higher rate than normal.”

Although there have been five more GLAs since last year, officers have noticed a specific type of vehicle being targeted by these thieves.

“Most of the cars being stolen in the 104 happen to be cargo vans — white cargo vans — a lot of these vans are utilized for livery cab services, they are used for construction services, and believe it or not, they are used for simply just a ride home,” Mastronardi added. “They are easy to break into, they are easy to steal and the perpetrators love them for whatever reason.”

In order to combat the rise in auto thefts the precinct is having police vehicles outfitted with license plate readers patrol the area. The license plate reader scans the plates as it passes by cars and provides the precinct with information on that vehicle, which could help determine if the car was stolen.

Also during the meeting, Mastronardi bestowed “Cop of the Month” honors on two of his officers who showed great poise and cool-headed thinking during an incident in August that could have ended violently.

On Aug. 12, Officers Michael Casella and Nan Chen were called to a family dispute just after 4 a.m. When they arrived on the scene they were met by the mother of the suspect who told them her son was acting irate.

The suspect was seen to have a large butcher’s knife in his waistband.

After numerous requests to drop the weapon Casella and Chen were able to engage the suspect and take him down without firing or even drawing their service weapons.

“Nothing short of extraordinary,” Mastronardi said of his officers’ heroics. “The reason why I picked these two officers to be Cops of the Month was simply because tactically they engaged, they didn’t use their weapons, they physically subdued an individual with a large butcher’s knife.”

Assemblyman Brian Barnwell also presented Chen and Casella with citations from the New York State Assembly, thanking them for their quick-thinking and bravery.

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