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Residents should be wary of rise in burglaries: Cops

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It took Police Officer Christopher Chin only a few minutes to know he had something big on his hands.

In early February, Chin got a routine call about a shoplifter in the TJ Maxx in College Point.

Chin and a fellow officer arrested the woman and brought her back to the 109th Precinct for questioning. The woman, homeless and addicted to heroin, told the officers about an apartment in Corona where she bought her drugs, the officer said. The dealers there were often armed with guns, she said.

“She told us about a gang, and we got a search warrant,” said Chin.

Chin then directed officers from the Emergency Services Unit to raid the apartment, where they discovered three handguns and ended up arresting five men, Chin said.

On March 13, Chin was awarded the “Cop of the Month” for his work.

“It’s great,” said Chin. “Everyday you come to work you hope to make a real difference.”

But while Chin and other police officers were able to prevent one theft and possibly several other crimes, other cases of stealing have been on the rise.

Police are urging residents to take preventative measures against burglary in the 109th Precinct, which covers Flushing, Whitestone, College Point and Bay Terrace.

“My biggest concern right now is the crime of burglary,” said Deputy Inspector Owen Monaghan at his first 109th Precinct Community Council meeting on March 13. Monaghan took command of the precinct on March 6 from Inspector James Waters.

Crime prevention Police Officer Henry Sookhu said that most of the crimes were occurring in homes.

“The burglaries are occurring when people are away at work,” said Sookhu. “People have the false sense that they can leave the second-floor window open.”

The burglaries were part of a general increase in crime in the 109th Precinct during the month of February following many months of decline.

For the week of Feb. 25 to March 3, burglaries in the 109th Precinct climbed by more than 40 percent to 38 from 27 during the same period the year before.

Over the prior month from Feb. 4 to March 3, burglaries were up 10.4 percent compared to the year before. Crime overall in the precinct was up 8.15 percent in the same span, with grand larceny up 10.3 percent, robbery up 22.2 percent, and felonious assault up 46.6 percent.

Monaghan said burglary was on the rise throughout most of the precinct.

The increase in burglary in the 109th is part of a general upturn in the crime throughout northeast Queens. The 111th Precinct, which covers Bayside, Little Neck and Douglaston, has seen a much larger spike in the crime. In the 111th Precinct, there were 41 burglaries in February compared to 20 the year before.

Crime Prevention Officer Frank Vazquez of Queens Borough Patrol North said residents had to take basic steps, such as making sure their back doors are locked and second-floor windows are closed, in order to help prevent crime.

“Criminals are opportunists,” said Vazquez.

Sookhu suggested that residents participate in the precinct’s Block Watcher program to get to know as many people as possible on their block and call in any suspicious activity.

“They call me a nosy neighbor,” said one woman in the audience.

“Well, we’ll call you a Block Watcher!” joked Sookhu.

Sookhu also suggested that residents take advantage of the precinct’s free residential surveys in which police officers come to a home and offer advice as to how the homeowner can take steps to reduce burglaries.

At the end of the council meeting, Michael Lau introduced himself as the new captain of the precinct. Lau joins Capt. Robert Unverzagat as the two men second in command under Monaghan.

In order to participate in the Block Watcher program or use one of the precinct’s free residential surveys, call Sookhu or Police Officer Ki-Soo Kim at 321-2270 or 321-2268.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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