Neighborhood watch proposed in 111th Precinct

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A surge in burglaries has officers in the 111th Precinct placing the call out for residents interested in starting up a neighborhood watch program.

The precinct has seen burglaries spike to 20 in a one-week period, as compared to two the 111th reported last year, according to Community Affairs Officer Bill Conway.

Homes between Northern Boulevard and the Long Island Expressway have been recently targeted, Conway said, due to their prime locations close to nearby highways. The precinct also suspects a professional crew behind the pattern of law-breaking that they say takes place in under five minutes.

Now the Bayside-based precinct is in talks to start up a civilian-based patrol, similar to those that already exist in Astoria and Glendale, to thwart the crimes.

“This is something we’ve been toying around with for a while,” Conway said. “They would be extra eyes and ears out on the street, keeping burglaries and other crimes down.”

The precinct has been participating in a block watchers program for several years, Conway said, but volunteers do not patrol in groups. Those part of the neighborhood watch would be more active and visible, he said.

“The burglars don’t want to be seen, so when they see a group of people wearing a uniform, the same shirts or caps, they move on,” said Conway.

Jack Fried, president of the precinct’s Community Council, pointed to the success of other neighborhood watches in the city and said volunteers would not be asked to be vigilantes.

“They’re not there to run after a criminal or block someone from trying to get into a house,” he said. “A police officer can’t be on every block in every neighborhood 24 hours a day, so these volunteers do that for them.”

Councilmember Peter Vallone lauded the efforts of volunteer watchdogs within the 114th Precinct, where civilian patrols began in early June, but said spikes in citywide crime can only be cut down with more police presence.

“Block watchers are absolutely helpful, but they do not take the place of police in any way,” he said.

Interested volunteers are asked to call Conway at 718-279-5295.

“There’s no doubt in my mind people will step up,” said Community Board 11 Chair Jerry Iannece. “It’s neighbors helping neighbors.”

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