Scams and burglaries continue to drive crime at Flushing-based precinct

Photo by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS

Flushing, College Point and Whitestone continue to be hit hard by scams and home break-ins even as other crimes are down, officials said on Wednesday night.

In spite of a few recurring crime trends in the command, Inspector Judith Harrison, commanding officer at the 109th Precinct, reported a decrease in many of the major crimes. For the last 28-day period, the precinct saw a 36.4 percent decrease in robbery and a 70.6 percent decrease in grand larceny auto.

“Our numbers are low at this time,” Harrison said at the March 14 meeting of the 109th Precinct Community Council. “That’s good, but I don’t want us to get a false sense of confidence, because we are spiking in grand larceny; and what’s driving our grand larceny [numbers] are identity thefts.”

Scams directed at the elderly are of particular concern, Harrison noted. The inspector read a series of related complaint reports.

In one, an 86-year-old man got a scam phone call that his son needed money. The man met with perpetrators with $3,000 in hand. In another, a perpetrator called an 84-year-old woman over to a vehicle and offered her a free necklace. The victim walked over and the perpetrator placed the new necklace on the woman while removing the woman’s necklace. The gifted necklace was a fake.

“I don’t read these complaints reports to shame or embarrass anyone. This is real; this happens,” the inspector said.

Harrison encouraged residents to visit or call their elderly family members, friends and neighbors and inform them of these scams.

Mail fishing continues to be an issue in the command and the city, a representative from the United States Postal Inspection Service added.

In the crime, perpetrators use makeshift devices, including sticky mouse traps and bottles dipped into adherent solutions, to “fish” mail out of mailboxes. After removing the mail, thieves then sort through the envelopes looking for checks and use an acetone solution to remove the ink and alter the information.

Harrison reminded residents to use the Uniball 207 gel pens, which contain a pigmented ink that adheres to paper. The model can be found at most office supply stores. Mail should also be dropped off in mailboxes prior the scheduled pick up time and not left to sit overnight.

“We’re aggressively trying to combat these, but it’s a monster. It’s out of hand,” she said.

The command also continues to see an uptick in burglaries. The precinct was up nearly 85 percent for the 28 day period.

Harrison noted officers made a significant arrest on March 10 after apprehending a Bronx man linked to multiple local break-ins. Still, the issue persists.

Doors and windows should always be locked and alarm systems activated, Harrison said.

“People come here to prey upon you all,” she told attendees. “You have nice things. You have nice homes. You have nice cars. And unfortunately there is an element out there — a criminal element — that wants to take advantage of you.”

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