By Connor Adams Sheets
Queens has earned the dubious distinction of the borough with the most stolen cars, with more than 3,000 already swiped this year, according to the Police Department.
The scourge of the felony known as grand larceny auto has been a major concern all year for the borough’s precincts, many of which have tried to warn residents about the danger of car theft and inform them on ways to avoid becoming a victim.
So far this year, 3,104 cars have been stolen in Queens, according to NYPD data released Nov. 14, an increase of about 9.3 percent over last year’s tally, and about 34.1 percent of the city’s stolen car total. As of Nov. 14, 9,096 cars had been stolen in the city, down from 9,276 by the same time last year, but 3,104 of them were taken in Queens, compared to 2,841 last year, according to the data.
The Queens precincts with the most stolen cars were the 105th in Queens Village and Laurelton with 325, the 104th in Ridgewood and Maspeth with 313, the 106th in South Ozone Park and Howard Beach with 259, the 109th in Flushing and Whitestone with 244 and the 102nd in Richmond Hill and Kew Gardens with 241 as of Oct. 31, according to NYPD data.
In May, the 109th Precinct undertook an effort to stem the rising numbers of stolen cars in its neighborhoods. Crime Prevention Officer Anthony LoVerme recommended a variety of measures people can take to protect their vehicles.
“We just pretty much want to get people to park in well-lit areas, park in garages if they have them, and use any alarms,” he said at the time. “They should call 911 if they see any suspicious activity. They can remain anonymous if they call.”
Some of the most commonly stolen vehicles in the 109th have been Toyota Highlanders and RAV-4s, Ford Econolines, Honda Civics and Accords and Dodge Caravans. Rims and tires are also being stolen in large numbers, especially from Nissans and Infinitis, LoVerme said. Citywide, the most commonly stolen cars are Civics, Accords, Econolines, Nissan Maximas and Toyota Camrys, according to the NYPD.
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, who represents the 114th Precinct, which came in sixth place with 235 stolen cars, said a number of factors combine to cause the thefts in Queens.
“The citywide issue is lack of police. Police are down from 41,000 in 2001 to 35,000 now. That problem is exacerbated in the outer boroughs because first of all more cops are taken from the outer boroughs when they make the cuts — they don’t take them from Manhattan — and also because the areas are more spread out,” he said. “Queens has the added attraction for car thieves of having a lot of escape routes. It has a lot of highways and bridges that will take you out of the borough or the city in minutes.”
He said the problem has gotten so bad that people have begun to find their cars missing tires and left on blocks in the street, as they often did in the 1970s. But there are ways to bring the numbers down.
“The first thing we need to do is get more police absolutely. More police equals less crime,” he explained. “The other thing people can do is start paying more attention. If you see anybody doing work on their car late at night, call 911. With this epidemic we’re facing, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.