By Mark Hallum
Crime in northeast Queens has taken a turn for the worse in recent months with a spate of gang activity, armed robberies and senseless acts of violence.
Prosecutors and law enforcement officials have alleged the notorious El Salvadorian gang known as MS-13 has extended its reach from Long Island into areas of Bayside and Flushing, as well as Jamaica and St. Albans in recent months. Attacks on residents in the northeast section of the borough have taken place with growing frequency.
In the first week of August a woman in Bayside was the victim of an armed robbery. Police said an armed man stepped out of a car on 26th Avenue and 204th Street before pulling a gun on a 48-year-old woman passing by on foot. According to the NYPD, the suspect demanded the woman’s purse, but a struggle ensued and the woman overcame her attacker. She even managed to keep her purse, a police spokeswoman said.
The day later on Aug. 3, a man in the 111th Precinct was brutally beaten by multiple individuals in the same area. Cops said they recovered a pipe and a handsaw, while the man was given medical attention for a stab wound in the back. The incident took place at 208th Street and 28th Avenue at about 8 p.m..
The NYPD was seen conducting what a spokeswoman described as an evidence search in Kissena Park July 28 with heavy equipment for excavating. The New York Daily News said a source told the paper the search was related to a tip law enforcement received about two dead bodies associated with MS-13 left in the Flushing green space, but the NYPD said the search turned up negative results.
In the most recent round of violence, Fernando Gonzalez Chavez, 39, originally from El Salvador, was standing outside a Murray Hill deli on 162nd Street and Northern Boulevard early on May 31 when Roberto Abrego, 23, and Jose Alvarenga, 27, allegedly ambushed him, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. Chavez was shot in the chest, puncturing a lung and resulting in his death, according to the DA.
Brown alleged the two Long Island assailants were members of MS-13 in a release from the DA’s office.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce told reporters soon after the arrest of the two suspects that Chavez had a tattoo of the number “13,” leading them to believe he was a member of the gang, the New York Post reported.
He said although there was a known MS-13 presence in southeast Queens, the northeast Queens murder seemed to be a visit from a Long Island branch of the gang.
The alleged MS-13 killing of Chavez came just weeks after the mid-May murder of Julio Vasquez, 16, who was found with at least two dozen stab wounds in an Oakland Gardens wetlands preserve and was determined by police to have gang ties.
Although law enforcement would not confirm a specific gang affiliation, a brick post in front of Vasquez’s St. Albans home showed MS-13 markings in black spray paint. The teen also had a record of gang assault among other crimes.
Vasquez’s “severely decomposed” body was originally spotted by a birdwatcher in a remote and heavily wooded part of Alley Pond Park, popular for its ungroomed wetlands.
The NYPD said the Alley Pond killing may have been gang-related but would not confirm the victim’s affiliation with the notorious MS-13 gang.
The last time a homicide took place in Bayside prior to the discovery of Vasquez’s body was in December 2014, when 4-month-old Nevin Janduher was admitted to Flushing Hospital where he died. His father, Jagsheer Singh, was later sentenced to 18 years for the child’s death, which resulted from physical abuse.
The FBI charged three alleged MS-13 members with racketeering and a 2016 attempted murder in Jamaica, which left the victim paralyzed from a bullet wound, according to a criminal complaint filed May 9 in federal court in Brooklyn. The FBI classified the victim as part of the 18th Street gang, which is involved in an ongoing turf war with MS-13’s local chapters, or “cliques,” and the rivalry “has resulted in various historical acts of violence,” the criminal complaint said. All these of the accused were from Queens.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall