By Alex Robinson
The 109th Precinct met with Flushing business owners Tuesday to tell them how they can help deal with a rise in pickpockets.
Deputy Inspector Brian Maguire attributed a 9 percent increase in Flushing’s overall crime rate in 2013 to a large number of grand larcenies in the neighborhood’s busy shopping district.
“We’re asking everybody to encourage their employees to watch people that come into the store that aren’t buying anything,” Maguire said. “If they observe someone committing a crime, whether it be stealing store merchandise or going into someone’s bag, please pay attention to that person.”
There were 236 grand larcenies in the 109th Precinct in 2013, Maguire said, which was a 53 percent increase from the year before. A large majority of these crimes were committed by pickpockets and bag openers in the downtown Flushing area, Maguire said.
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.
The 109th appealed to business owners to pay particular attention to unattended property in restaurants and bars. Shopping carts, baby strollers and purses have all been targeted by pickpockets and thieves, said Maguire.
He encouraged employees to follow a suspected pickpocket’s movements in the store and to call 911 if they are observed committing a crime. He added the business’ employees should try to get a good description of the suspect as well as a camera to capture video or photos so police can run them through face recognition software.
“When we do this, we will make Flushing safer,” he said.
The 109th also walked through a number of common pickpocketing scenarios and showed video footage of wanted thieves at work.
Maguire awarded a certificate to Mei Jiang, owner of Chung Fat Supermarket, at 41-82 Main St., whose employees recently stopped a pickpocket who was robbing a customer. The employees then surrounded the pickpocket and detained him until the police arrived, Maguire said.
“The Chung Fat Supermarket was instrumental in grabbing a pickpocket,” Maguire said. “He had an extensive criminal history. He was a pickpocket that’s been working all over Queens North.”
Maguire reminded residents and businesses to be cautious of pickpockets during the upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations. He said the 109th will be taking extra precautions during the holiday, which is typically the neighborhood’s busiest shopping season.
“If we can prevent one crime, I think it was worth the meeting,” Maguire said.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.