By Daniel Massey
A person claiming to represent the New York Veterans Police Association has been selling plastic plaques in the Forest Hills area maintaining they will help offenders beat parking tickets, police said.
The con artist, who tells customers a copy of the certificate will get parking summonses dismissed, is charging $150 for the plaques, said Capt. Charles Stravalle, the commanding officer of the 112th Precinct.
“It’s a scam that’s going on,” Stravalle said.
A spokesman for the Police Department said he could not vouch for the organization. “They’re out there advertised pretty well,” he said. “I just don’t know about their legitimacy.”
Donald LeBlanc, president of the veteran’s association said he was “annoyed” and “upset” that someone appeared to be taking advantage of his organization, which he said was the oldest and probably the largest retired police association in the United States.
The plaques, which say “vehicle identification,” are distributed to members who pay a $50 annual fee he said. “It strictly identifies the vehicle and the member. It doesn’t say official business. It doesn’t portend to give anybody a break. It’s meant to identify the person as an upstanding citizen as part of our association,” he said. “Anybody that displays this thing for any particular gain should be arrested or summoned.”
Police recently issued summonses to two car owners who thought they would get off because of the plaques, Stravalle said. One car was illegally parked in a bus stop and the other was double parked.
“One guy said he paid 150 bucks for the permit thinking he’d get out of parking tickets,” the captain said. “People should not donate any money thinking they’ll get special privileges.”
In an unrelated case, felony charges were lodged against a man who displayed a phony police parking permit in his car as it was parked on Booth Street last week, Stravalle said. The man’s car was blocking a sanitation dumpster, preventing garbage from being picked up, he said.
“We found out it wasn’t a cop at all,” said Stravalle. “He got a police parking permit and altered it, changed the date.”
Despite the appearance of the phony permits in the area, overall crime continued to fall in the 112th Precinct. Crime is down nearly 7 percent this year as compared to the same 1-1/2-month period last year.
The biggest dropoff has been seen in robberies, which have fallen nearly 50 percent this year when compared to figures through Feb. 17 last year.
Burglaries and grand larceny have risen, and Stravalle has called upon the community to help police bring those figures down.
Credit card fraud, a crime that is preventable if citizens are more alert, is the biggest reason the precinct’s grand larceny figures have risen 20 percent this year, when compared to the first one and half months of last year, Stravalle said.
“People are leaving property unattended and somebody is coming and taking it,” he said. People have to learn not to leave things exposed in cars.”
On Sunday, Stravalle welcomed about 50 Forest Hills and Rego Park residents to an open house at the precinct. Visitors toured the station house, received lessons on how to properly secure their homes to prevent burglaries and were told to be skeptical of people who show up unannounced at their doors.
Stravalle said there has been a spate of robberies where burglars break in via the back doors of homes. “They’re knocking on windows and doors and then break in if nobody ‘s home,” he said.
Police believe the bandits are using the Long Island Rail Road tracks as a hideout and escape route. They have arrested six people and picked up five minors since Feb. 4 for trespassing on the tracks.
“People should be alert,” Stravalle said. “If they see anybody roaming around the tracks, they should call 911 immediately. Anyone on the railroad tracks, that’s a crime in progress.”
Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.