Crime And Fire Prevention Advice
Residents attending the Monday, Mar. 5 meeting of the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) heard tips from the FDNY and the NYPD on how to protect themselves and their valuables.
Lt. John Errico of the FDNY began his presentation by noting that 27 seniors died in 2011 due to kitchen fires.
“The most important thing you can have in your home is a smoke detector,” he told the crowd, as it gives residents more time to get out of their home in the event of a blaze. “If you have a working smoke detector, you’re going to survive a fire 50 percent of the time.”
Batteries in a smoke detector should be changed twice a year, he added, when the clocks change to daylight savings time and then back to standard time.
To help, the Fire Department is giving out 30,000 batteries citywide (including at that COMET meeting) to New Yorkers to ensure that their smoke detectors are working.
Errico also pointed out that new “lifetime” smoke detectors are now available with batteries that last for 10 years. However, the batteries are not replaceable; a new smoke alarm must be installed.
The detectors should be installed on each floor of a home, said Errico, with one just outside the bedroom.
Residents should also install carbon monoxide alarms in their home, as the gas is odorless, colorless and undetectable without one.
Combination CO/smoke detectors are available.
Errico then shifted to fire prevention, especially while cooking. Residents should avoid wearing bulky clothing that could catch fire, he told the crowd, and have baking soda nearby to put out grease fires.
“You don’t want water anywhere near a grease fire,” he warned.
When on the stove, pot and pan handles should be pointed away from oneself, and the stove itself should be clear of anything that could catch fire.
Residents should also have a fire extinguisher handy. Errico recommended an “ABC” model, which can be used in a variety of situations. When using one, he urged that residents follows the “P.A.S.S.” method-Pull the trigger, Aim the nozzle, Squeeze the trigger, and Sweep back and forth.
Reuseable extinguishers are available but the FDNY does not refill used ones. Disposable models can be bought at local hardware stores.
Old and expired extinguishers should be expelled of their contents and then recycled.
“It takes a while to settle in,” Deputy Inspector Ronald Leyson told the crowd, but so far, “I like what I see.”
The portion of the 110th Precinct that is represented by COMET fell 24 percent in crime over the last 28 days, the commanding officer noted, with three robberies, one burglary, two assaults and three larcenies among the crimes reported.
Leyson urged residents to beware of automatic teller machines that look like they have “skimming” devices installed that can steal personal information. He suggested that users use one hand to cover the other when entering their PIN number, as hidden cameras are sometimes used to record users entering their info.
He then turned to the “very frustrating” problem of residents leaving their property unattended, leading to thefts.
“It may not be a financial loss for you,” the commander said, “but it’s stress, it’s undue stress and it’s a burden.”
Leyson said that the crime has been taking place at the Queens Center Mall; in one instance, a criminal hid inside a rack of clothing and rifled through stroller, purses and bags when no one was looking.
He also told the crowd of a robbery pattern where iPhones and iPads are being stolen from passengers on local trains. In the scheme, the perpetrator will swipe the device from the straphanger just as the doors are closing; before the victim can react, the train is on its way to the next stop.
Residents must be aware of their surroundings when listening to music on headphones, urged Leyson: “You work too hard for these things that we have.”
While auto thefts have dropped 20 percent in the precinct over the past month, thieves are still targeting Hondas, in part due to their interchangeable parts, according to Leyson. When the weather gets warmer, he told COMET that he expected Ford Econolines to become a target.
Leyson finally reminded the crowd that the NYPD “will not solicit funds over the phone.”
Capt. Terry O’Toole, the executive officer of the 108th Precinct, told COMET that the area the civic group services experienced three burglaries and three grand larcenies.
He also said that there have been reports of men picking up scrap metal from area homes. Many such incidents go unpunished, he added, because the person reporting the incident must be willing to vouch for their property, even if the thing the are vouching for is trash.
O’Toole urged residents who see someone suspicious around the neighborhood to call 911; the precinct’s current average response time, he stated, is under four minutes.
He then turned to the thefts of tires and rims, pointing out that with battery-operated torque wrenches, criminals can remove tires and rims from a vehicle as fast as a NASCAR pit crew, he added.
Many of the rims being stolen, he added, are from “higher-end autos,” and lately the manufacturer’s original equipment as opposed to expensive rims.
Capt. John Travaglia, the executive officer of the 104th Precinct, noted that COMET’s jurisdiction had four felony assaults, one robbery and four larcenies, including three of tires and rims.
The fourth larceny involved a Craigslist posting where the responder was asked to pay via Western Union; Travaglia urged residents to beware of similar postings online.
In addition, the precinct had seven burglaries, four residential and three commercial.
One resident complained of a location on 59th Avenue which they called a “very desolate area” and is seeing drug-related activity.
“We’d like to know that there’s somebody around looking out for us,” the resident added, asking for increased police activity. Travaglia told the resident to call 911.
The resident also asked the precinct to crack down on fourwheeled all-terrain vehicles (commonly called “quads”) that have been seen “zipping around nonstop,” Travaglia stated that they have issued over 10 summonses so far this year, and many of them get confiscated by the precinct.
“There are a lot of them and they’re very tough to catch, because they are on to us too,” he explained.
Travaglia also told the crowd that the 104th Precinct is continuing to issue summonses to trucks and tour buses that park illegally on Maspeth Avenue and Mazeau Street. One trucker has resorted to parking elsewhere in the 104th Precinct.
“My next step is I’m going to be towing buses,” he warned.
J.R. Nocerino, representing City Council Member Karen Koslowitz, noted that since January, the Taxi and Limousine Commission has issued 191 summonses to commuter vans operating illegally in COMET’s area.
COMET usually meets on the first Monday of the month at the Bethzatha Church of God, located at 85-20 57th Ave. in Elmhurst.