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Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
From left to right: 104PCC President Len Santoro, Captain John Mastronardi, Officer James Fleming and Officer Larry Valdemar, after 'Cop of the Month' awards were given to Fleming and Valdemar on April 17.

Crime is still on the decline in the 104th Precinct thanks to the kind of police work that was recognized by Captain John Mastronardi on April 18 at the 104th Precinct Community Council’s monthly meeting at St. Margaret’s School in Middle Village.

The commanding officer shared two unique stories of arrests in the precinct that led him to name Officer James Fleming and Officer Larry Valdemar as “Cops of the Month,” a fun tradition the precinct shares with the community. Officers Fleming and Valdemar were part of the same police academy class and have been with the NYPD for more than 12 years.

“These two guys work in a high-profile position in the command, and with that they do a fantastic job,” Mastronardi said. “They put their lives on the line every day in plain clothes, so these are different kinds of police officers.”

Fleming’s award stemmed from an investigative tip about a location where underage females were being prostituted in a sex trafficking case. With a sense of urgency, Fleming obtained a search warrant from the Queens County District Attorney’s office for the Ridgewood address in question, Mastronardi said.

When officers from the 104th Precinct went through the door, they arrested and charged seven suspects and also recovered a large quantity of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and cash, Mastronardi said. While other officers made the arrest, it was Fleming’s “investigative aptitude that allowed us to get the information,” Mastronardi said.

Valdemar’s story, on the other hand, drew a few chuckles from the crowd.

He and the crime prevention team responded to a 911 call on March 2 about a man trying to break into the back door of a house in Glendale. They conducted an investigation and obtained surveillance video from the area that showed the same man trying to break into a car. The team later observed broken glass on a door window at a residence on Myrtle Avenue and tactfully entered the building.

Once inside, the bad guy was found standing naked in the kitchen of the apartment washing the victim’s dishes while the victim was asleep, and Officer Valdemar arrested him.

Valdemar has been with the 104th Precinct for about eight years, and he said he became a cop because he likes to help people and help out his community.

Officer Fleming explained that he is one of the precinct’s field intelligence officers, meaning he gets information out of criminals that have been arrested so that further investigations can be conducted. Mastronardi called him his “eyes and ears out on the street.”

The commanding officer then went on to address the state of the precinct, in which crime is down 12.5 percent over the past 28-day period.

The wave of “mailbox fishing” that had been affecting the area is subsiding thanks to a newly installed mailbox on 69th Street and Grand Avenue and others in the precinct, Mastronardi said. There has also been proactive enforcement of such crimes leading to several arrests, and Postal Inspector Dyllan O’Neill attending the meeting to update the public about the issue as well.

The captain also touched on the issue of roofing scammers that have targeted elderly homeowners in Maspeth and Middle Village for several years and warned residents not to trust door-to-door solicitors that claim to know your roof needs repairs.

Another problem that the precinct often faces in the summer months is illegal dirt bikes and ATVs, especially in Highland park. Even though the precinct recently confiscated a dirt bike, Mastronardi explained that he does not allow his officers to engage in pursuits with them because of the danger it presents to the riders. Therefore, their operations to catch illegal riders are very carefully planned.

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