By Scott Sieber
On April 15, police from the 109th Precinct went undercover to arrest four Flushing men – Han Chen, Herman Nib, Simon Leung and Steve Leung – on charges of promoting gambling and possession of a gambling device.The police recovered chips, playing cards, a Sony Playstation and $4,660 from the operation.City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) said the latest arrests were unique because they were made with the assistance of conscientious neighbors fed up with round-the-clock activity. Wary of upsetting police investigations, Liu said illegal gambling dens abound throughout the city, and several in Flushing are under investigation by his office. But he would not comment on other gambling locations other than the breakup of the operation on Maple Avenue. He called on residents to shrug off any threats and take an active role in stopping such illicit circles. “The people involved often harass and threaten their neighbors to keep quiet,” Liu told a news conference last Thursday. “We want people to be unafraid to come forward.”Stavisky said whistle-blowers will have their names protected and should not be afraid of calling the authorities.”We're taking the idea of community policing to a new level to enlist the people who know their area the best Ð the residents,” Stavisky said. “We're talking illegal gambling where the stakes are high. It's a form of pollution and it destroys perfectly good neighborhoods.”It was the residents who led to the downfall of the Maple Avenue gambling den, located at a three-story townhouse between Main Street and College Point Boulevard, one of several gaming operations in an area that Liu had initially asked police from the 109th Precinct to investigate for prostitution. As it turned out, prostitution was only part of the larger problem.”Several people were seized, tens of thousands of dollars were seized and the place was shut down,” Liu said. “This place had video cameras all over the place. There was no furniture. It was all chairs and tables.”Elected officials say the plan is to start a chain of community outcry whereby if one resident overcomes the fear of retribution from the gamblers and comes forward, others will follow.”We want people to feel secure that they will get help,” he said. “We will work closely with the police to conduct a full investigation and close down these gambling dens.” Officials cautioned against neighbors turning in neighbors for friendly games of poker or mah jongg.”It's not just the typical card game that people are betting on. It's all the associated activities Ð the loans, the granting of credit and other forms of vice, such as prostitution,” Liu said. “These are all diseases that plague our community.”Liu and Stavisky also offered their praises to officers of the 109th Precinct for their efforts in shutting down the gambling den.Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300.