BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO
The success of the NYPD’s Vision Zero initiative was celebrated at Tuesday’s 104th Precinct Community Council meeting after it was revealed that a handgun was recovered during a routine traffic stop in Glendale.
According to Capt. Mark Wachter, commanding officer of the precinct, the gun was discovered after the suspect was pulled over for making an illegal U-turn near the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Union Turnpike on Oct. 17. Police presence in the area was already stepped up due to a motorcycle fatality at the intersection earlier that day. Sgt. Martha Lequerica and Police Officer Ock arrested the out-of-state driver and recovered the weapon, as well as a large amount of cash in the vehicle.
“This is an example of how a very minor offense leads to taking a gun off the street,” Wachter explained. “It shows that sometimes the little things that we focus on can lead to much bigger offenses. If we didn’t take that gun that night, where would it wind up?”
During an open forum, the captain addressed the ongoing battle against illegal massage parlors throughout the command. A resident identified as Kerry A. voiced concerns about prostitution and human sex trafficking in the neighborhood as a result of the so-called “day spas,” citing 69-29 Myrtle Ave. in Glendale as a particularly problematic location.
“This has been an ongoing issue over many years,” she said. “They do not belong in the landscape of Glendale. A lot of these places are open 24 hours. You have people coming into the neighborhood at 4 o’clock in the morning looking for sexual services.”
According to Wachter, the vice enforcement division has been conducting several ongoing investigations into numerous parlors, resulting in 31 arrests and the closing of seven businesses in the past year alone. Arrests were made on the grounds of offering unlicensed massages, offers to perform sex acts or a combination of both.
“There are active investigations going on in a majority of these places,” Wachter explained. “Most of these investigations are in cooperation with the DA’s office, and some of these are federal investigations.”
In addition to enforcement, Wachter explained that suspects arrested in these cases are debriefed in a one-on-one interview with an officer and a translator, if needed, to see whether they are victims of human sex trafficking, as well as identify a potential funnel of money back to a larger operation in another country. According to the captain, nearly 80 officers in the precinct were also given special training by an expert to help identify signs of human trafficking.
“I am trying to solve it,” Wachter added. “If I can get 69-29 closed, that would be a start.”
Wachter and the council also honored P.O. Jason Egnacyk and P.O. Jack Dagnese with the Cop of the Month award for numerous collective arrests over the past two months. According to Wachter, the duo made between 13 and 15 “quality arrests,” including four narcotics busts and the recovery of two guns and a switchblade in the two-month period.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley also awarded P.O. Jason McKevitt and P.O. Samantha Anderson with special citations from the City Council for their help with the Gladys Ricart Brides’ March to End Domestic Violence, held at Atlas Park on Sept. 26, as well as for their efforts to reduce domestic violence in the community at large.