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Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS
Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS
Officers Gabriel Gonzalez and Dean Zandani were honored as "Cop of the Month" during the April 24 meeting of the 114th Precinct Community Council.

Property thefts and scams are on the rise in the 114th Precinct, police officials told residents during Tuesday’s 114th Precinct Community Council meeting at Riccardo’s by the Bridge in Astoria.

Deputy Inspector Osvaldo Nuñez and Crime Prevention Officer Gabe Tovar warned those at the meeting about increases in auto thefts, mailbox fishing and phone scams — noting that, in the case of phone scams, seniors were being targeted.

According to crime statistics from the NYPD, complaints in the 114th Precinct related to grand larceny autos is up from 22 in 2017 to 40 in 2018. Nuñez said that the rise raised concern since the stolen vehicles typically lead to other, more serious crimes, including stripping cars for parts and motorcycle thefts.

In relation to car theft, Nuñez spoke about a rash of stolen plates in areas of the 114th. He reminded the public to check that both of their license plates were on their cars, as those could be reattached to different vehicles and also be used to facilitate crimes.

The officers also tackled the problem of increased phone scams, especially those that targeted the elderly.

They shared a story about a 78-year-old man who was scammed out of $127,000 over a series of eight phone calls. According to Tovar, the elderly man was tricked into believing he was giving money to his grandson, who claimed he was caught with cocaine and subsequently had to post bail and hire a lawyer.

Other examples of phone scams that they mentioned include people impersonating Con Edison employees or IRS agents. Both Nunez and Tovar said that the best thing to do in these situations is to not share any personal information with the caller and hang up the phone.

Next, Tovar highlighted the issue of mailbox fishing, which is also on the rise in the 114th Precinct. Mailbox fishing involves using adhesive to steal checks from blue mailboxes on the street. Thieves can either use a long item to reach into mailboxes or coat the opening flap with tape to prevent mail from dropping inside.

Tovar presented several options to protect against fishing. He advised against using blue mailboxes as much as possible, but if necessary, to drop mail in as close as possible to the last pickup time. Other tips he shared were to pay bills online or through the post office and to use pens such as the uni-ball 207 gel pens that cannot be bleached off by scammers.

Nuñez heard from one resident about the number of electronic bikes being used in Astoria. Though the selling and use of e-bikes is illegal, many businesses in Queens and other parts of New York City utilize them for delivery.

According to Nuñez, the 114th Precinct seized 44 bikes year-to-date, which is more than they seized in the entirety of 2017. He said that any complaints about e-bikes should be shared with the precinct, including the specific location of the offending bike.

“Tell me a specific location where the e-bikes are. I’d rather target the person on the e-bike rather than the business owner,” Nuñez said.

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