111th sets up citizen patrol

Image courtesy NYPD
By Phil Corso

A recent spike in burglaries has driven the 111th Precinct to mobilize residents of northeast Queens into organizing civilian patrols, the precinct’s community council said.

According to 111th Precinct crime statistics, a total of 20 burglaries were recorded between Nov. 26 and Dec. 2 — as opposed to only two recorded during the same period last year. The drastic increase in burglaries may be attributed to more than one group of professional criminals, with equipment potentially as sophisticated as night vision goggles, surveying homes between Northern Boulevard and the Long Island Expressway, Community Council President Jack Fried said.

“The way these guys are breaking into homes is more professional,” Fried said. “They know how to break the door in or get a window open. They don’t let alarms scare them.”

Fried said the burglars plaguing the 111th Precinct since the end of November have been concentrating most of their efforts on the bedrooms of the homes they invade, focusing most on jewelry and money.

“Nothing is scaring them,” Fried said. “There have been a lot of burglaries because people are leaving their windows unlocked.”

Though police have increased the number of patrols in the area, Community Affairs Officer Bill Conway said the 111th was working to rally northeast Queens into setting up civilian patrols in some of the most hard-hit areas — similar to programs already in place in areas like Astoria and Glendale.

In Glendale, the 104th Precinct Civilian Observation Patrol has watched over the neighborhood since 1976, according to group President Frank Kotnik.

“You get out of it what you put into it,” Kotnik said. “You have to lead by example. We have a successful program here because we put a lot of work into it.”

According to Fried, the precinct hoped to expand on its current block-watcher program, which has residents come into the precinct for brief lessons on what to look for in the event of a crime, what kinds of cars to watch out for and what kinds of profiles the typical perpetrators might fit.

Fried said homes were most vulnerable to theft in the evening hours in the period when people are coming home from work and dropping off their things before heading out for dinner.

“What we want to do is expand this to the point where the block watchers have an additional voluntary group of people who would actually drive up and down the streets during high crime hours around the evenings,” Fried said. “They will not be vigilantes. If they spot something, they would just call 911 and give as much information as possible.”

These civilian patrollers would use their own vehicles, Fried said, and volunteer their time to boost the bulk of the precinct’s crime prevention program.

Burglaries dominated the area’s crime records as of early December, the 111th Precinct said. On Tuesday, the 111th Precinct also released surveillance footage of another suspect wanted in connection to three burglaries from Dec. 6 at 213-02 75th Ave., 213-06 7th Ave. and 73-03 Bell Blvd., in which he allegedly stole money and credit cards from cars parked inside parking garages.

Anyone interested in joining the civilian patrols were asked to call the 111th Precinct’s community affairs office at 718-279-5295.

“It all revolves around the Police Department being out there, but they need the eyes and ears of the community residents,” Fried said. “If they see something, we hope they do not hesitate to call the police.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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