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Car theft declines steeply in Bayside

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The 111th Police Precinct seems to have conquered one of northeast Queens' most persistent crimes: stolen cars.

Capt. Anthony Mullen told members of the 111th Precinct Community Council last Wednesday that incidents of grand larceny auto had fallen below 10 for each of the last two weeks for the first time in years.

"A few years ago it wouldn't be uncommon to lose 40 or 50 cars a week," Mullen said. "We are finally in the single digits. In an area of about 11 square miles with a lot of cars, this is really phenomenal."

Mullen said there were eight reported incidents of car theft last week and seven the week before in the 111th Precinct, which is based in Bayside and covers Little Neck, Douglaston, Hollis Hills, Auburndale, and parts of Flushing.

While crime across the city and in the 111th has dropped over the past several years, grand larceny auto has consistently been the precinct's most significant problem.

The affluence of northeast Queens and easy access to highways have been blamed in part for the large number of car thefts in the area. The Clearview Expressway and the Cross Island Parkway run through the precinct, which is bordered by the Grand Central Parkway and the Long Island Expressway.

Even though police statistics show incidents of reported automobile thefts in 1999 were down to 794 from 1,169 in 1998, grand larceny auto was by far the 111th's biggest crime. The second largest crime category in the precinct has been burglaries, and there were 446 burglaries reported last year.

Mullen, who took command of the 111th Precinct in December, said the precinct has rethought the way it handles car thefts and tried to find what he called "common denominators" between cases. He has also assigned Lt. Dan Heffernan specifically to handle car thefts.

During investigations, he said, officers try to find out if victims of auto theft have taken their cars to the same service stations, parking garages or restaurants.

"Within the last six months where was the car repaired?" Mullen said. "Which valet did the owner go to or restaurants? There are some common denominators and we've got to find out what those are."

Community Affairs Officers Santo Elardo and Anthony Lombardi said the recent drop in car thefts was "unbelievable."

"It's almost unheard of," Lombardi said of the decrease.

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