By Tom Momberg
The Bay Terrace Community Alliance got a chance to meet with 109th Precinct’s commander last week to get an idea of what kind of crime is going on around the shopping center and in nearby neighborhoods.
Though Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti said crime is down 25 percent this year in the precinct overall, which translates to about 200 fewer victims, vehicle related crime is still very prominent around the Bay Terrace Shopping Center, because there is an abundance of parking and so many vehicles centrally located. The precinct also covers Flushing, Whitestone and College Point.
“People that come to these meetings want to know what’s going on in their neighborhood,” Conforti said. “Though things have become pretty good, crime-wise, we’ve become too complacent.”
The deputy inspector said complacency comes in the form of people leaving their cars unlocked. He said criminals will do what is called “door-handle surfing,” and even though they may not find high-price-tag items, small things and a pocket full of change from each car they hit can add up very quickly.
“The only way my officers can arrest somebody for doing something is if they catch them in the car, unless they had somebody who witnessed them in the act,” which Conforti said is why he stresses to both the Bay Terrace community and the people who go there to shop that they should always lock their doors and keep valuables out of sight.
“When you add this all up, it’s ingenious, because the people that are committing these crimes know that the likelihood of getting caught is slim to none. And even if they do get arrested for it, the charges like attempted petit larceny are very minor.”
He said sometimes the crimes can even go unnoticed, which is why “the vast number of deployments in this area over the last few months have been overnight.” Conforti pointed out “the biggest problem we have had over here in the first five months of the year have been tire and rim thefts off of vehicles.”
Conforti said the shopping center and 212th Street had been targeted, specifically. He said there are several crews responsible for the thefts, and wheel locks are but a mild deterrent.
“If they want your tire and rims, they will do their research and they will get them,” he said.
The 109th Precinct has made six arrests so far, and a rim theft that police tracked on camera took exactly 4 minutes and 38 seconds. Conforti said those crews have their efforts down to a science.
He said it is a frustrating crime, but his precinct is on top of it. IdeaScale, a pilot broadband public communication system that the 109th Precinct rolled out last year, has been a primary tool in identifying and charting such crimes, Conforti said.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb