By Cynthia Koons
The 109th Precinct in northeast Queens cut crime by 10 percent last year, a decrease the Flushing councilman and a police spokesman attributed to the influx of more officers into the area.
The Police Department statistics “demonstrate that even with so few resources the men and women of the 109th Precinct do a phenomenal job of keeping our neighborhoods safe and they continue to get even better at it,” Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said.
The statistics covered 2003 and showed the number of major crimes in the 109th dropping 10 percent from 4,079 incidents the year before to 3,647.
Under the program known as Operation Impact, 45 more police officers were assigned to downtown Flushing at the beginning of last year after a spate of armed store robberies prompted Liu to talk to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly about adding enforcement in the business center.
Flushing was the first precinct in the Queens Borough North Patrol to benefit from the initiative, Officer Joseph Conelli said.
The precinct also covers Whitestone, College Point, Beechhurst, Queensboro Hill, Malba and Bay Terrace.
Conelli and Liu both said the increase in officers was the reason crime dropped in the 109th Precinct coverage area.
“The 109th Precinct was always big in burglaries and grand larceny auto theft, and we’ve been knocking it down,” Conelli said.
According to statistics compiled by the Police Department, burglaries dropped by 20 percent in the past year and auto thefts fell by 25 percent from the previous year.
In the past 10 years, incidents of auto theft plummeted by 82 percent and burglaries declined by 63 percent in the 109th Precinct.
“To combat auto theft, we make people aware,” Conelli said.
The precinct holds events like VIN etchings at which officers carve vehicle identification numbers into car windows to deter thieves. He said there are other programs that provide stickers to identify cars that may be on the roads at odd hours.
This year the precinct will not gain any additional Operation Impact officers, Conelli said.
The 104th Precinct just received Operation Impact II officers for the Queens North Borough Patrol, with 36 new cops added to an impact zone in Ridgewood. The 115th and 110th precincts will also receive Operation Impact II officers.
In the 109th Precinct, there are 177 police officers. Conelli said any increases in the force would depend on how many officers graduate from the Police Academy this year.
“I think it’s important to direct the resources where they are needed,” Liu said. “Downtown Flushing is so congested. Having officers on foot makes a lot of sense and it frees up the officers in patrol cars to respond quicker to incidents outside of downtown Flushing.”
In April last year, the police attributed a drop in crime in Whitestone to the foot patrols.
Many of the Operation Impact officers have been pulled from downtown Flushing within the past year. At least 19 officers were transferred to other precincts when the promising statistics were released in April.
Conelli said officers from bordering precincts also add enforcement to Roosevelt Ave.
While Operation Impact’s numbers may be waning in the area, Liu said the initiative is the reason that crime in the area has dropped.
“The point of Operation Impact was not to apprehend criminals, but to deter crime and it was obviously wildly successful,” he said.
Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at email@example.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.