By Alex Robinson
In his year-end address to residents, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown trumpeted his office’s accomplishments and praised the borough as one of the city’s leaders in crime reduction in 2013.
“My office has steadfastly committed itself to ensuring a safe environment for those who live and work in Queens County,” Brown said. “Through our law-enforcement initiatives and the utilization of an array of cutting-edge interventions and prevention programs, we have made tremendous progress in accomplishing that goal which, in turn, has contributed greatly to New York City’s historic decline in serious and violent crime.”
Through Dec. 12, Queens recorded an overall drop in crime of 5.2 percent in 2013, according to the DA’s office. Murders dropped by 28 percent and the number of rapes decreased by 8 percent. The only major crimes that went up were felony assaults, which increased by 1 percent, and grand larceny, which rose by 4 percent.
Brown’s office handled 70,000 cases in 2013, his 22nd year as district attorney.
Among the successful prosecutions of the year were those of Urban Fermin and Darius Lowery, who were convicted of the attempted murder of a police officer in March. The two Ozone Park men were convicted of shooting at a police officer in his car after he tried to stop them during a one-hour crime spree, during which they stole a car, burglarized a house and robbed a woman on the street at gunpoint, according to the DA. Fermin was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison and Lowery was sentenced to 30 years.
Simon Watts, a Springfield Gardens public school teacher, was convicted of sexually abusing five of his students — ages 8 to 10. Watts was sentenced to 35 years in prison in June.
“We continue to do our part in protecting our younger residents by going after online child pornographers as well as sex traffickers and sexual predators who attempt to meet underage children online for sexual relations,” Brown said.
The DA’s Investigations Division conducted a number of long-term investigations into large criminal enterprises in 2013, such as the one that culminated in the shutting down of a $2.4 million luxury car theft ring in December. Following an 18-month investigation, police arrested 18 suspects on a long list of charges, including enterprise corruption.
Since 1991, the rate of auto thefts in Queens has plummeted by more than 90 percent, Brown said.
“This record drop in crime was accomplished, in part, by focusing our attention on organized car theft rings and by curbing the illegal scrapping of stolen cars,” he said.
Brown said his office vigorously pursued hate crime cases this year and also focused on illegal cigarette traffickers and counterfeiting rings.
Queens has seen a 77.7 percent decrease in overall crime and a 78.1 percent decrease in murders in the last 20 years, said the DA. The borough has also experienced a 76.3 percent decline in robberies, and a 78.9 percent decrease in burglaries during that time.
“I am optimistic that by continuing the very successful strategies that we have employed over the years we, together with our law enforcement colleagues, can make Queens County even safer in 2014,” Brown said.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.