Robberies up in 110th Precinct

By Jeremy Walsh

Crime was down in Corona and Elmhurst in the first quarter of the year compared to the same time in 2007, NYPD statistics showed. But the 110th Precinct recently faced a spate of store robberies and an upswing in muggings of teens for their popular cell phones, the precinct commander said.

The overall number of the seven major crimes the NYPD tracks declined 9.7 percent between the first quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008, according to year-to-date data through April 13.

There were no murders but eight rapes during the first part of each year in the 110th Precinct. Burglaries were down 32.6 percent from 141 during the first quarter of 2007 to 95 for the same period of 2008.

But robberies climbed 22.3 percent from 85 in the first quarter of 2007 to 104 through the same period of 2008.

Part of that is due to one man, according to 110th Precinct Commander Capt. Richard Napolitano: A suspect, described as a Hispanic man in his mid-to-late 20s, standing 5 feet 3 inches and weighing 190 pounds, who entered four bodegas, a Laundromat and an Internet caf in Corona and Elmhurst between Feb. 27 and March 19.

“He's going there at closing time with a black handgun,” Napolitano told the crowd at a 110th Precinct Community Council meeting.

“The kids love the Sidekicks,” Napolitano said, addressing a popular type of cell phone. “The kids that can't afford them are robbing the kids who can.”

He said the precinct's cop of the month, Sgt. Charles Minch, earned his accolade for spotting a teenage boy wrestling with a girl for her Sidekick at 42nd Avenue and National Street. Minch, on his way to work and not in uniform, chased the suspect for a block and apprehended him, Napolitano said.

The robberies generally happen around the Queens Center Mall between 4p.m. and 6 p.m., Napolitano said. “Often, people are engaged in conversation and aren't paying attention,” he said. “The bad guys can see that.”

In order to combat these robberies, the 110th has beefed up its mall patrols and is using a young plainclothes officer as bait for would-be muggers.

Though burglaries are down so far in 2008, Napolitano said the precinct has seen an increase along Roosevelt Avenue between 72nd and 80th streets.

“Half the burglaries that occur are because people leave their doors or windows open,” he said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.