In the wake of a recent violent robbery at a downtown Flushing jewelry store, several small business owners met with NYPD’s 109th Precinct officers to discuss retail theft and crime prevention strategies at the Flushing Public Library on Friday, March 3.
The private meeting was hosted by Councilwoman Sandra Ung, who was joined by 109th Precinct Deputy Inspector Louron Hall and Crime Prevention Officer Mark Burger; Peter Koo, senior adviser to the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety; Dian Yu, executive director of the Flushing Business Improvement District; and Eva Chen, owner of Diamonds Direct, whose store was robbed on Feb. 22.
Following the discussion inside the library’s conference room, Ung held a press conference with NYPD 109th Precinct Crime Prevention Officer Mark Burger and Koo to brief the media on crime updates in the downtown Flushing area.
“What happened to Diamond Collect was absolutely horrible. I felt it was important for us to have a meeting so there’s more communication with the small businesses about what’s happening,” Ung said. “I have to thank the 109th Precinct for being there from the beginning until now, and having these conversations with the small business owners.”
In the case of the robbery that occurred at Diamonds Direct at 133-42 39th Ave., Burger said the NYPD is working diligently on the investigation. Police are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the four suspects, who were captured on surveillance cameras beating Chen’s 78-year-old mother before robbing an estimated $1.1 million in jewelry.
Following the incident, Ung announced that the 109th Precinct will be sending a crime prevention unit to businesses at One Fulton Square, and others in the area to help them with strategies to prevent crime.
Over the last week, according to Ung, there has been a 60% drop in crime in downtown Flushing, as the precinct ramps up increased police presence in the area.
“There are 28 new police officers patrolling the downtown Flushing area — 14 officers during the day and 14 officers at night,” Ung said. “There are 40 officers on mobile patrol Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in downtown Flushing. I’ve been able to talk to many police officers that can speak different languages. They’re coming from precincts across the city because they know we need the help.”
Burger, who has worked at the 109th Precinct for the past 18 years and has been a crime prevention officer for 8 ½ years, encouraged business owners and homeowners to do a security assessment, which is free of charge and conducted by the precinct’s officers.
“If anyone has a business or a home, I’m the person to reach out to if you want me to do a security assessment,” Burger said. “During an assessment, I will go into your home and take a look at the doors and windows, and see if there are any vulnerabilities there, and come up with a solution. I would like to do these things before a break-in happens.”
Burger noted the importance of having a discussion with people, whether it’s at a business or home, about making them aware of what is happening and tightening up their habits and procedures to better protect themselves and their property.
“For the past week, we’ve been having a campaign with a table of informational pamphlets on protective measures and how to not become a victim of a crime or how to limit your loss,” Burger said. “It’s been an open forum and we want people to approach us. You should take protective measures to safeguard yourself in this area.”
When asked about whether there has been a rise in deception crimes, where, for example, someone may disguised as a Con Edison worker to gain access into a home, Burger said it rarely happens nowadays.
“I don’t see that as much. With respect to deception, I think it’s more through electronic means where people are calling victims and tricking them to send money,” Burger said. “With the home break-ins, people are masked up. It’s commonplace. A few years ago, wearing a mask was suspicious, and after the pandemic, no one thinks twice about it.”
Burger is urging community members to stay vigilant and for businesses to screen people as best as possible.
“I understand times are busy, but try your best to screen people. Not everyone is a criminal, but any little thing you do, you’re trying to put a corkscrew in that criminal’s wrongdoing,” Burger said.
Meanwhile, Ung and Koo are encouraging people who are a victim of a crime to call 311 or 911.
Koo announced that there will be a public safety forum at the Tangram shopping mall, located at 133-33 39th Ave., on Saturday, March 4, at 2 p.m. He is encouraging people to participate in the event.