By Helen Klein
Grand larcenies are the 70th Precinct’s biggest headache.At the February meeting of the Community Board 14’s Public Safety Committee, which was held at the board office, 810 East 16th Street, Deputy Inspector Thomas Harris, the precinct commander, told board members that an up-tick in identity theft was plaguing the precinct. That, he said, “Drives up our grand larceny.“We got off to a little bit of a rough start, this year, crime-wise,” Harris acknowledged. “But, by the end of this week we will have leveled off and we’ll start to see some reductions in crime.”In addition, said Harris, “The weather hasn’t cooperated with us this year. Weather is the best police officer out there,” he told his listeners. But, he added (just a few days before a blizzard of mammoth proportions assailed the city), “It hasn’t been cold enough to keep people in.”According to CompStat statistics posted on the NYPD’s website, as of January 29th, the 70th Precinct was up 5.12 percent overall, compared to the same time in 2005. The statistics measure the incidence of the seven index crimes – murder, rape, robbery, felonious assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto (G.L.A.).According to the statistics, grand larcenies – which include identity theft – were up 13.8 percent, year to date, with 74 such crimes reported in 2006 compared to 65 at the same time in 2005. Felonious assaults in the precinct were also up – with 28 so far in 2006, compared with 21 at this time in 2005, for an increase of 33.3 percent. G.L.A.s were also up, with 18 so far in 2006, compared with 17 at this point in 2005, for an increase of 5.8 percent.Both murder and robbery were down. There has been one murder in the precinct, so far in 2006, compared with two at this point in 2005, for a 50 percent decrease. There have been 64 robberies so far in 2006, compared with 69 at the same point last year, for a decrease of 7.2 percent. Rapes and burglaries were flat. There have been four rapes, so far, this year, the same number as at this time in 2005. Similarly, there have been 37 burglaries so far this year, the identical number reported at this time in 2005.“The impact zones themselves are doing well,” Harris said, referring to two areas within the command — Parkside Avenue to Cortelyou Road, between Marlborough Road and Flatbush Avenue, and the Flatbush Nostrand Junction – where there is a higher concentration of police officers. “The zone by Caton is down almost six percent,” he reported. “The second zone, by the Junction, is down 40 percent.” These decreases, stressed Harris, “Show how the focused efforts of officers have helped out.”To deal with identity theft, Harris recommended that area residents, “Have to really guard their identities, make sure they don’t give out their Social Security number. If you have someone’s name, their date of birth and even the last four digits of their Social Security number, you own them.”One difficulty in tracking identity theft, stressed Harris, is the difficulty in pinning down how it occurred. “Whether there is anything a local beat officer could do to stop it is problematic,” Harris said. He recalled that he could see the Social Security numbers of numerous patients on the computer screens at his doctor’s office. “Oftentimes you never know where the I.D. is stolen. It could be from that doctor’s office. It could be from someone double-swiping at a store.” The effects of identity theft, Harris added, can be long-lasting. “It takes some people years to recover,” he emphasized.One piece of good news, said Harris, is the addition of 150 new officers, in the past couple of weeks, for the precinct’s impact zones. “While those 150 cops are dedicated to those areas, that frees up the rest of the 220 officers to focus on the other areas,” Harris explained. The precinct’s ranks have now swelled to a total of 370 officers, said Harris.