By Patricia Demchak
Residents of Fresh Meadows and surrounding communities may rest a little easier after a worrisome spate of home burglaries.
The precinct that patrols their streets has just gained 20 additional officers, an increase of nearly 17 percent in manpower, according to precinct officers and City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Jamaica Estates), who blamed the rise in home burglaries on an understaffed police force.
The 107th Precinct has been allotted 16 officers from the 1,359 who graduated from the New York City Police Academy on March 27, Gennaro said. In addition, four seasoned officers have been transferred to the 107th from other precincts.
“It’s certainly a good first step,” Gennaro said. “Thirty would have been better, but we got 20, so we did among the best of the commands in South Queens.”
In the weeks leading up to graduation, Gennaro and members of Community Board 8 expressed concern at an increase in burglaries, particularly in the Fresh Meadows area.
Total burglaries this year have increased 74 percent over last year, although all other categories of crime have decreased from 2001 to 2002, according to crime statistics. There have been 167 burglaries this year, compared with 96 last year. For the week ended March 17 alone there were 13 reported burglaries, a 160 percent increase over the five reported during the same week in 2001.
“We’ve seen some burglaries. The answer is more cops,” Gennaro said. In response, he wrote Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly in March to request a favorable portion of new graduates and to point out that manpower at the 107th was far below goals set during the 1990s. Members of Community Board 8 also wrote letters to the commissioner and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, District Manager Diane Cohen said.
“Although this is good news, we’re still not at our full complement, so to speak, of officers,” Cohen said. “But at least we got a decent amount of personnel.”
The 107th Precinct is responsible for policing a population of more than 130,000 residents in northeast Queens communities that include Briarwood, Fresh Meadows, Jamaica Hills, Kew Gardens Hills and Utopia Estates.
A comparison with estimates from other Queens precincts found the 107th gained slightly more officers than the average of about 18 men and women. Depending on precincts’ sizes, crime rates, population, retirement rates and other factors, the number of officers assigned to each ranged from 10 to 31, according to officers at the various precincts.
Until last week only 119 officers served the precinct, Cohen said. The “Safe Streets, Safe City” program of the early 1990s set a goal of 217 officers for the area, Gennaro said, but he admitted the older program’s strategy has been replaced by a leaner program with an emphasis on special task forces.
“We don’t police the same way we used to, but that doesn’t mean 130 officers is OK. It’s not OK,” Gennaro said. “I wanted to get it up to 150 officers, and I want to take it even higher than that.”
Precinct Capt. Patrick Heaney was out for the week and could not be reached for comment, but Gennaro said they hope to plan a communitywide event to welcome the officers to the neighborhood.
Reach reporter Patricia Demchak by e-mail at [email protected] or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.