By Alex Robinson
The 109th Precinct appealed to downtown Flushing businesses Thursday for help in tackling a proliferation of pickpockets who have ravaged shoppers in the new year.
Grand larcenies account for 44 percent of overall crime in the precinct and have shot up 162 percent compared to this time last year, according to Police Department statistics up through Jan. 19. Brian Maguire, the 109th’s deputy inspector, said a plague of pickpockets accounts for a large majority of these crimes.
“If we can knock down grand larcenies, we can reduce crime in the 109th, but what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to make everybody a stakeholder,” Maguire said. “We have to get the businesses involved to pay attention to the customers that are shopping in their stores.”
Downtown Flushing has become a hot spot for pickpockets, who have been walking into stores and lifting valuables and cash from unsuspecting customers, Maguire said.
The precinct will be hosting a crime prevention meeting in the basement of the Queens Library, at 41-17 Main St., Tuesday at noon to tell businesses in the area how they can help.
“If we had 100 more cops, that wouldn’t solve the problem,” Maguire said. “Be our eyes and ears out here. If the business community gets involved we can knock this crime down.”
Maguire said pickpockets have targeted shoppers in downtown Flushing’s fruit stores as some employees in these stores are typically so busy making sure their produce is not stolen, they have not been paying attention to their customers’ belongings. A majority of the pickpockets are not from Flushing and are coming to the downtown area to take advantage of the high volume of shoppers, he said.
The precinct asked anyone who observes a pickpocket committing a crime to call 911 and try to take a photo of the suspect.
“Once the word gets out that Flushing isn’t a safe area to shop, people might go elsewhere, so we want to get the word out and have everybody participate,” Maguire said.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.