By Christina Santucci
The 111th Precinct Community Council met in a packed conference room Tuesday night as community members and police honored Officer Gary Poggiali for his 10 years of service as the precinct’s community affairs officer.
Poggiali, who first joined the northeast Queens precinct two months before Sept. 11, 2001, is scheduled to retire in February.
“I know this community better than the community I grew up in,” Poggiali said. “I really do love this community. I spend a lot here, a lot of great people here and I’m going to miss a lot of you.”
A native of Hicksville, L.I., who worked as a jet mechanic during his six years in the U.S. Marines, Poggiali entered the police academy in 1995. His wife, Victoria, gave birth to their son, Ryan James, seven weeks ago.
Jerry Iannece, the Community Board 11 chairman, was joined by the board’s district manager, Susan Seinfeld, to commend Poggiali.
“He deals with us and he deals with all of the issues of the community, and he does it with pride and he does it really well,” Iannece told the crowd of 50 people.
State Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), City Councilman-elect Paul Vallone and spokeswomen for U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) also presented Poggiali with citations and certificates, including one that declared Tuesday as Gary Poggiali Day in the 6th Congressional district.
“Gary is one of the good guys,” said Jack Fried, president of the 111th Precinct Community Council, citing Poggiali’s work with past National Night Out events.
The meeting also included a breakdown of crime statistics in the precinct, a warning about phone scams and an announcement that Natalie Cohen, the precinct council’s treasurer, had died.
Deputy Inspector Jason Huerta, commanding officer of the 111th Precinct, advised northeast Queens residents to be extra careful with their shopping purchases and belongings.
“This is a joyous time but a lot of people view this as an opportune time to commit crimes,” he said.
Crime for the precinct was down 14 percent over the past 28 days as compared to the same time last year, and one burglary was reported during the past week, as compared to 15 during the same time period last year, Huerta said.
Areas where authorities are seeing slight increases are grand larcenies, identity theft and vehicle break-ins. Police were investigating several smashed windows of vehicles in the area of 42nd Avenue and Oceania Street, officers said.
So far this year, there have been 810 crimes committed in the precinct, as compared to 792 last year.
“We have three weeks left, and I’m confident we’re going to beat the year,” Huerta said.
Community Affairs officers from 1 Police Plaza also warned attendees about phone scams, including one dubbed the “Green Dot MoneyPak scam.”
Con artists call victims, say that a relative is in jail or in trouble and needs money and instruct people to go to a drugstore to purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak card, according to police. Once the money card is bought, victims scratch off and read the MoneyPak number to perpetrators, who then have access to the funds.
“They are preying on older folks,” said Officer Robert Semler.
Other variations of the scam include callers who pose as representatives of the Internal Revenue Service to collect a debt or as utility workers, who tell victims their heat or electricity will be cut off, according to officers. Calls can also pertain to threats of deportation or games in which the victims supposedly won money, police said.
Officers said within the 111th Precinct there have been reports of scams in which callers claim loved ones are in need, but none so far involving Green Dot MoneyPak cards.
Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org by phone at 718-260-4589.