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Residents will have to exercise extra caution with their property and identity as grand larceny has skyrocketed in northwestern Queens this year.

“Grand larcenies is […] the number one crime that is driving us in the 114th Precinct,” said Deputy Inspector Peter Fortune, commander of the 114th Precinct, during a detailed presentation about the rise in theft at Tuesday night’s 114th Precinct Community Council meeting in Astoria.

Fortune cited that during a 28-day period, from March 28 until April 24, grand larcenies have boosted from 39 incidents to 67. “This is really, really the problem that we’ve identified,” he said.

The two major types of grand larceny are identity theft and unattended property that is being stolen. According to Fortune, the unattended larcenies rose to 41 percent with 24 incidents versus 17. Identity thefts, however, have exploded by 280 percent, from 7 to 26 cases.

Most acts of neglected property are occurring at chain stores such as Verizon and Home Depot, explained Fortune. He said that shoppers leave their belongings on the store counter, then thieves snatch their property and abuse the victim’s credit cards in a matter of minutes.

Property was also stolen at three gyms this month, two of which took place at Planet Fitness.

Fortune also emphasized the drastic peak in ATM and debit schemes in recent weeks. In two out of 26 such incidents, nine ATM machines were compromised and nine new credit cards were opened, the officer reported.

Skimmer devices are being discovered in the Astoria area, including a recent finding on 33rd Street in Astoria. Police have noticed that the crooks use ATM machines at 7-Eleven convenience stores and shopping centers rather than banks.

Thieves are increasingly depositing fake checks into a person’s legitimate bank account and withdrawing large sums of money through ATM machines, explained Fortune.

He also discussed “bust outs” where a person removes money from their own account and reports that they have been a victim of identity theft.

“A lot of times that victim is making that story up because they withdrew all their money, they went on a spending spree and now they need a way to backtrack and report themselves as a victim of a crime,” said Fortune.

Other popular identity thefts are data breaches, where corrupt employees at local restaurants and grocery stores are “working on the inside” by stealing credit card numbers and checks from customers then opening up new cards in the victim’s name.

Fortune advises residents to check for anything that seems suspicious at ATM machines and keep their property close at all times.

Photo: QNS/Brianna Ellis

Photo: QNS/Brianna Ellis

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