Queens DA gets $550K to fight car theft, fraud

By Alex Davidson

The Queens district attorney’s office received a state grant worth half a million dollars last Thursday in a move that will help the prosecutor target motor vehicle theft and insurance fraud schemes within the borough, a spokeswoman said.

The grant for Queens was the largest in the state.

According to a release from Gov. George Pataki, District Attorney Richard Brown’s office will now have an additional $552,500 to initiate specialized training in breaking up auto theft and insurance schemes as part of a program that was designed to increase the number of prosecutions of criminals.

“The fight against auto insurance fraud remains one of District Attorney Brown’s top priorities,” his spokeswoman said. “The DA is pleased because the funds will enable the office to continue complex, long-term investigations targeting highly sophisticated fraud rings.”

Queens historically has had one of the highest auto theft rates in the city because thieves have easy access to bridges running out of the borough, although the number of incidents has declined sharply in recent years.

More than $4.3 million dollars in grants for programs to reduce motor vehicle theft and insurance fraud were given throughout the state, with Queens County receiving the most money from Albany, the release said.

“These grants will provide communities with enhanced resources to prevent auto theft and insurance fraud, which cost New Yorkers and the auto insurance industry millions of dollars each year,” Pataki said.

Brown, speaking at a news conference last month, said automobile thefts in Queens County are down from a high 10 years ago of 52,000 reported incidents to last year’s figure of 7,432. He attributed the drop to long-term investigations that have used court-authorized eavesdropping tools and tougher sentencing as deterrents to future automobile thefts.

About 27 grants were doled out under the state initiative. Besides Queens County, Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and Brooklyn were recipients of supplementary grant funds.

The New York Police Department received a $320,000 grant, while the New York City Sheriff’s Department took an $80,000 influx of funds.

Monies for the grants were taken from funds collected by auto insurance companies from each vehicle that is insured in New York State. A $5 fee is paid for every passenger and commercial vehicle insured in New York.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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