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Tricky Thieves In Comet-land

Cops Warn Residents Of Deception Burglaries

Police officials warned residents about deception burglaries and a break-in pattern-and residents honored a former precinct commander-during the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) holiday meeting held last Monday, Dec. 1, at Elmhurst’s Bethzatha Church of God.

Deputy Inspector Brian Hennessy (center), the former 108th Precinct commander, was honored by COMET President Rosemarie Daraio (at right) and Vice President Richard Gundlach during the group’s meeting last Monday, Dec. 1.

The commanding officers from the 104th, 108th and 110th all spoke about a rise in deception burglaries targeting local seniors.

Capt. Christopher Manson of the 104th Precinct spoke about a deception burglary that took place earlier that afternoon. According to Manson, two white males claiming to be from a fictitious “water authority” preyed upon the home of a 91- year-old war veteran.

The pair of thieves gained entry to the man’s home after telling the victim they needed to check the water pressure in his sinks.

Pictured at last Monday’s COMET meeting are (from left to right) Deputy Inspector Ronald Leyson, commander of the 110th Precinct; Capt. John Travaglia, new commander of the 108th Precinct; and Deputy Inspector Brian Hennessy, former 108th Precinct commander.

Once inside, the pair attempted to steal four metal strongboxes from the home. They made off with three of the four boxes, leaving behind $100,000 in cash in the fourth box. The crooks stole two boxes worth of documents, as well as a box of cherished World War II medals.

Manson placed the victim under police guard for the night and vowed to work with the State Department to recover his hard earned war medals. He urged residents not to keep large sums of money in their homes.

The captain also advised residents to keep cash, important documents and valuables in bank safe deposit boxes.

According to Manson, deception thieves often pose a fake utility workers and target seniors because they are often alone and trusting. Residents were warned not to let anyone into their homes without first contacting the utility company to see if the worker is legitimate.

Capt. John Travaglia, commander of the 108th Precinct, echoed these concerns about deception crimes: “How often, in all of the years of living in a home, does a utility worker knock on a door?”

Manson, Travaglia and Daraio asked residents to help warn their elderly neighbors about the crimes.

“We have to be messengers and spread the word,” Travaglia explained.

Burglary patterns

Burglaries in general are on the rise in the COMET area. Manson reported a “steady decrease” in grand larcenies and grand larceny auto in the 104th Precinct, but warned about a new wave of crime in Maspeth.

According to Manson, a “new burglary trend” of pattern robberies has hit Maspeth in the past month. The pattern began back on Nov. 19, when a thief gained access to a home on 65th Place, making off with jewels, documents and an Irish passport. The pattern continued with an attempted robbery of the home of an off-duty police officer on 69th Place on Nov. 26.

In this case, the officer scared the thief and nothing was taken. The officer was able to give a description of the alleged thief as a male white in his twenties.

Later that same night, the thief struck another home on 65th Place sometime between 8 and 9 p.m. A home was also burglarized in a similar fashion on 54th Avenue in Maspeth between Nov. 25 and 29 while the victim was on vacation.

“This is a true type pattern,” Manson explained, as all of the crimes take place in a specific timeframe and location. He is hopeful that an arrest will be made in the near future. The captain urged residents to report anyone suspicious to 911.

Deputy Inspector Ronald Leyson, commanding officer of the 110th Precinct, also reported similar home burglaries. On Nov. 28, thieves gained access to a home on Gorsline Street through an unlocked rear window, stealing an ipod and jewelry.

A similar burglary took place on Nov. 8 at a home of 53rd Avenue. According to Leyson, the residence was “ransacked” but showed no signs of forced entry. Leyson urged residents to always lock windows and advocated for home security systems and alarms.

P.O. Thompson Wen, the 110th Precinct’s crime prevention officer, is available to help residents protect their property with a free home survey. As part of the survey, Thompson will evaluate the residence and make suggestions about which security measures and devices are needed. Residents will also receive a free written report based on Officer Thompson’s recommendations.

Those interested in a free home security survey are asked to call 1-718-476-9326.

Asian community concerns

Some COMET members voiced concerns regarding language barriers and crime reporting in the 110th Precinct. Elmhurst resident Rachel L. expressed the need for more bilingual Asian officers in the precinct.

Leyson explained that the NYPD Management, Analysis and Planning office is in charge of officer appointments. He did urge residents to write letters petitioning the commissioner as a community.

Daraio asked Leyson whether or not they could get Asian officers to volunteer to work in the precinct.

“As a civic group, we have to work as a unity and deal with the concerns of everyone, especially our new constituents,” Daraio stated.

Many new residents of Elmhurst are Asian immigrants who may be unfamiliar with the law and their rights here in America.

According to Thompson, out of the nearly 160 officers at the 100th Precinct, 18 are Asian, including two Asian supervisors. Leyson explained that the precinct does conduct community outreach, including bilingual educational flyers, through the Immigrant Outreach Unit at Community Affairs.

Daraio and Leyson are currently working together to schedule a town hall forum to deal with these important concerns of the growing Asian immigrant population.

“It is important for us civically to let them know their rights,” Daraio explained.

Farewell & reunion

COMET President Rosemarie Daraio and her fellow board members honored outgoing commanding officer of the 108th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Brian Hennessy. Richard Gundlach, Woodside vice president of COMET, presented Hennessy with a plaque and expressed appreciation on behalf of COMET residents.

“The best to the best,” said Gundlach to Hennessy, “and we all wish you the best in your new command.”

Hennessy thanked the COMET board and residents for their dedication and appreciation. Hennessy then helped introduce his successor at the 108th Precinct, new commanding officer Travaglia.

Travaglia had previously worked at the 104th Precinct as executive officerand looks forward to working with the COMET community again.

“This is one of the best Christmas presents,” he added, “It’s great to be back.”

Daraio and COMET members also gave a warm welcome to Deputy Chief Jeffrey Maddrey. Maddrey was assigned to the 110th Precinct shortly after graduating the academy two decades ago and was promoted to Sergeant back in 1998.

Maddrey served the COMET community for many years as their local beat officer. Daraio recalled Maddrey’s dedication and service to the people of COMET-land.

“He liked to walk, meet people and connect with the community,” she stated.

Maddrey was promoted from inspector to deputy chief following his leadership of Brooklyn’s 75th Precinct in the wake of the shooting death of Det. Peter J. Figoski back in December 2011.

“This is like a homecoming for me,” he said, “This is still my beat.”

Maddrey explained that he stresses the importance of forging neighborhood connections to new recruits. “I’ll ask younger officers to take me to at least four people in the community,” Maddrey added. He also thanked Daraio and COMET members for keeping him connected to his former beat.

COMET will not meet in January 2015; its next meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. at Bethzatha Church of God, located at 85-20 57th Ave. in Elmhurst. For more information, visit www.cometcivics.com.

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