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With its tree-lined streets of one- and two story homes, Whitestone does not appear to be the destination of car thieves.
But police warned that car theft is on the rise and residents need to take actions against the crime.
The crime problem No. 1 is grand larceny auto, said Deputy Inspector Owen Monaghan of the 109th Precinct at a recent meeting in Whitestone.
More than a dozen law enforcement officials went to the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association meeting on April 17 to discuss car thefts as well as burglaries and graffiti in the neighborhood
While police do not release information broken down into individual neighborhoods within a precinct, police statistics show a recent rise in car thefts in the 109th Precinct, which comprises Whitestone, College Point, Flushing and Bay Terrace.
From March 11 to April 7, police statistics show 77 cars were stolen in the 109th Precinct, a rise in the crime of more than 26 percent compared to the same period last year.
The rise in the northeastern Queens precinct comes as car thefts have fallen throughout most of the city. Citywide, the car thefts are down 8 percent vs. the year-earlier period and down in Queens by more than 13 percent.
Still, the spike does not rival the number of car thefts in 1993, when the stolen auto rate was nearly twice as high in the 109th Precinct as it is today.
Frank Vazquez, a crime prevention officer for Boro Patrol Queens North, described ways to help prevent car thefts.
Several police programs emphasize mounting stickers on the car, indicating to police who is allowed to drive the car, Vazquez said.
In the CAT program, the owner specifies times, either during work hours or late at night, when the car is never driven, and the police can stop the car if they see it being driven at those times.
In the HEAT program, the owner, who must be over 40, puts a sticker on the car indicating that police can stop the car if the driver appears to be under 25.
Most car thieves we arrest are under the age of 25, said Vazquez.
Vazquez recommended having Vehicle Identification Numbers etched onto the glass of the car to help prevent the car from being stolen.
Vazquez added that thieves recently have focused on stealing particular parts of the car.
A new trend we are seeing is the theft of car headlights, he said.
Vazquez also spoke about burglaries, which have been on the rise in the 109th Precinct. He recommended that residents take advantage of the Residential Security Survey in which police come to homes and check the quality of locks, windows, doors and alarms.
Vazquez suggested canceling newspaper subscriptions while on vacation to prevent a house from appearing empty.
Chief James Tuller, commanding officer of Boro Patrol Queens North, talked about combating graffiti in Whitestone and other communities.
We need to make sure that were all in the fight to eliminate graffiti, he said. The graffiti is going to come back. We have to come back and take it away again.
Tuller added that middle-age men, not just youth, often spray graffiti onto buildings.
Graffiti is a crime that is not just done by young people, he said. Thats a misconception.
Residents and drivers interested in taking advantage of the 109th Precincts free crime prevention programs should call Police Officer Henry Sookhu at 321-2270.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.
©2002 Community Newspaper Group
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