By Connor Adams Sheets
Police arrested a teenager last week for allegedly producing graffiti in at least four locations in Whitestone and Auburndale, but on another front they said auto thefts have increased throughout the 109th Precinct so far this year.
Michael Lowery, 19, who allegedly uses the graffiti tag “TRAM,” was arrested last Thursday for allegedly scratching his adopted moniker into two city bus shelters and leaving his mark in at least two locations, police said.
He was arrested at 154th Street and 11th Avenue in Whitestone for allegedly leaving “TRAM” scratched onto a city bus shelter there, as he is also accused of doing at Francis Lewis Boulevard and 35th Avenue in Auburndale, according to police. He is also accused of allegedly creating graffiti or some sort of graffiti at both 144th Street and 15th Road and Clintonville Street and 17th Avenue, both in Whitestone, police said.
Crime Prevention Officer Anthony LoVerme wants to get out the word that people need to be extra vigilant about locking their cars and watching for suspicious individuals in light of an ongoing problem with stolen vehicles in the 109th Precinct.
“If you see someone suspicious near your car, call 911 and say someone’s looking at your car so we can send someone over to catch them,” LoVerme said. “We need people’s help catching people stealing cars because it’s very hard to catch them on our own.”
The most popular cars for criminals to steal in the 109th Precinct are Toyotas of all sorts and Ford Econoline vans, LoVerme said, adding that the thieves seem to have the ability to cut keys to steal some vehicles more effectively.
So far, grand theft auto in the 109th Precinct is up 31.2 percent over last year, with 21 vehicles stolen between Jan. 1 and Jan. 16 compared to 16 by Jan. 16, 2010, according to the latest crime statistics compiled by the Police Department. Nine Toyotas were stolen in the 28 days prior to Jan. 20, LoVerme said.
LoVerme said some of the thefts could have been prevented. Three of the cars stolen since the beginning of the year were left running with no one in them, he said.
At 7:20 a.m. Jan. 3 on 156th Street between 14th and 16th avenues in Whitestone, a man left his keys in a 2011 BMW with the car running while he went into his house to grab something. When he came back outside, the car, and the $2,000 in cash he had in it, were gone.
At 10:30 p.m. Jan. 8 near the intersection of 149th Street and Sanford Avenue in Murray Hill, a man left his keys in his 2006 Cadillac running in front of his house. The car was stolen after he went back into his home without turning the car off.
At 7 p.m. Jan. 17, a woman entered a Chinese restaurant near the intersection of 132nd Street and 14th Avenue in College Point and left her 2009 Chevrolet Malibu running in a nearby parking lot. When she returned, her car was gone.
LoVerme said the 109th is a popular place for car thieves to target because it is located near highways, it has a relatively suburban character and there are many chop shops in the area.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.