Queens Assemblywoman hosts town hall addressing public safety concerns and rise in criminal activity in district

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Photo courtesy of Rajkumar’s office

Queens community leaders and residents were tuned in on Monday, March 15 for Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar’s virtual town hall with commanding officers from three police precincts to address the alarming spike of criminal activity and quality-of-life issues in their neighborhoods.

Rajkumar represents the 38th Assembly District which includes the neighborhoods of Woodhaven, Ridgewood, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Glendale. According to the Assemblywoman, the number one concern in the district is public safety, as she referenced two recent shootings that claimed the lives of two young people in Woodhaven, and three attempted sexual assaults that occurred at Forest Park and at nearby subway stations. 

“Is it a question of more cameras at subway stations? Lights in Forest Park and increased patrol presence? Is it an increase in mental health services, more after school programs to keep our children busy?” said Rajkumar. “I am hopeful, because all around our district, well intentioned heartfelt residents want to help in the effort to keep us safe and to find a better way forward.” 

While the town hall was meant to address criminal activity in the district, residents expressed their concerns over matters relating to quality-of-life issues such as speeding cars, loud music, and homelessness. 

NYPD Commanding Officers Captain Louron Hall of the 104th Precinct, Captain Antonio Fidacaro of the 102nd Precinct, and Captain John Costello of the 106th Precinct informed residents about the biggest and frequent issues their precinct faces. 

According to Hall, the 104th precinct’s most pressing issue is quality-of-life concerns, receiving a high volume of 311 complaints averaging 2,400 calls per month. 

“Seventy-five percent of our complaints are related to parking — illegal parking, blocked driveways and abandoned vehicles. The other 25 percent is split between noise complaints, graffiti and homelessness,” said Hall, who claimed that the precinct receives the most 311 complaints in the city. As the volume of calls has increased over the past year, the precinct has reduced its response time to those calls by about an hour. 

Meanwhile, Fidacaro said the 102 Precinct in Richmond Hill is third in the five boroughs with 311 complaints, averaging under 1,900 calls within the past month, all of which are parking-related complaints. 

“Cars seem to be the most prevailing complaint that we do have, obviously crime is still an issue and we have been doing better this year with a 22 percent decrease year-to-date at this point in time,” Fidacaro said. 

As warm weather is approaching, Costello said the 106th Precinct’s common theme is noise complaints, particularly vehicles with loud speakers on Lefferts Boulevard. 

“As Captain Fidacaro and Captain Hall stated, it’s also 311 calls about disorderly groups, noise, drinking — all quality-of-life issues that are most prevalent in this precinct,” Costello said. 

During the Q&A segment with the commanding officers, Bob Monahan, president of the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council and head of the Ridgewood Kiwanis Club, brought to attention a group of homeless individuals living underneath an underpass, where they publicly display their affection for one another. 

Meanwhile, Elizabeth De La Cruz, president of the Glendale Civilian Observation Patrol, said people dining outdoors last year were approached by residents from the West Hab Shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. requesting food and money. 

“One of the problems last year was that if you said no, they would become aggressive,” De La Cruz said. 

In response, Hall said they are anticipating heavy foot traffic in their commercial districts as more people become vaccinated and will be dining outdoors during the warmer months, however, there isn’t much they can do in regards to complaints of panhandlers. 

“It’s obviously a nuisance, but unfortunately it’s not a crime or even a violation to beg for money if they’re not doing it in an aggressive manner,” Hall said. “And if they do become aggressive, we can send in police to handle the situation, and to at least move along, even if they’re not aggressive.” 

Going beyond quality-of-life complaints during the Q&A segment, Kenny Mankowitz, president of the Forest Park Co-op, asked about the attempted rapes in the park. 

“I understand there was a body found in Forest Park. We would like to know what happened? My shareholders are frightened to go to the park and to park their cars,” Mankowitz said. 

Fidacaro referred to a November case of attempted rape in the park that led to an arrest within 24 hours of the crime, saying that the suspect is still in jail. According to Fidacaro, the precinct had a significant amount of resources that they called in from the city which led to the suspect’s arrest. 

However, the precinct has yet to apprehend a suspect in the fatal hit-and-run incident in December 2020 that killed South Ozone Park resident and Indo-Caribbean vocalist, Rita Persaud, according to community leader Albert Baldeo who asked for an update about the case. 

Although Fidacaro could not offer new information about the case, he said it has not become a cold case and is still under investigation by the NYPD Highway Patrol. 

“All I can say is that I’m very pleased with the direction the investigation is going, and when we have any updates, it will be provided,” Fidacaro said. 

In regards to issues in the Sikh Punjabi community in Richmond Hill involving male youths in a series of fights, Rose Kaur asked the 102nd Precinct what kind of outreach they’re doing to mitigate the problem.

According to Fidacaro, the precinct’s community affairs officer, Iftekher Mashfiq, who speaks the Punjabi language, made house calls and visited homes of those who have been arrested to explain the consequences of going down that path. 

“A lot of them to my surprise, didn’t understand what an assault arrest meant to them,” Fidacaro said. “We sat down with a lot of them and had very few people that were actually continuing down that road and it looks like it helped a lot.”

Fidacaro said the precinct will continue to monitor the situation.