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Burglary, auto theft units increased at 109th Pct.

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In a move to step up its fight against burglaries and stolen cars, the 109th Precinct has shifted its manpower to focus on the two crimes in northeastern Queens, its captain said last week.

“Two thorns in our sides are still burglaries ... and also grand larceny autos,” Capt. Michael Lau told a Flushing Chamber of Commerce and Business Association meeting last Thursday.

While crime overall in the 109th Precinct is down 3.5 percent from mid-May to mid-June, burglaries and grand larcenies have increased as compared to the year before.

In the latest period, 88 cars were stolen, an increase of 12.8 percent, and there were 85 reported burglaries, up from 14.8 percent in the mid-May to mid-June span last year.

The 109th Precinct has been targeting both burglaries and car thefts for several months. The police have asked residents of Whitestone, Flushing, College Point and Bay Terrace to take precautions against the crimes by enrolling in police programs, such as free security inspections of homes.

In the latest step, the precinct has increased the number of officers assigned to its burglary and grand larceny auto units, Lau said.

Lau said the precinct’s recent focus on the two crimes had brought results.

“They’ve made substantial arrests in the last couple of months,” he said.

Antonio Petrocelli, a member of the chamber, brought up the issue of prostitution on 32nd Avenue.

Petrocelli said he had once stopped a prostitute on the street.

“I said, ‘What are you doing here?’” Petrocelli said. “And she jumped right in my car!”

“It’s a major concern to us,” said Lau. “We’re aware of the problem and we’re working on it.”

Lau said weak penalties for prostitution allowed the problem to continue.

“We arrest these girls and they’re back on the street the next day,” he said.

Instead, the precinct has focused on going after the men who frequent the prostitutes, using an undercover female police officer to pose as a prostitute.

Community Affairs Officer Frank Devereaux said the precinct had taken a step against prostitution in the area by targeting a warehouse on the corner of 32nd Avenue and Miller Street.

The warehouse, the former home of the Miller Tube Company, has been abandoned for several years, Devereaux said. ConEdison left the power on in the building, however, and the warehouse became a destination for prostitutes, drug addicts and the homeless, police at the meeting said.

“Some of these people had set up these offices like they were apartments,” Devereaux said.

In late April ConEdison finally responded to the police’s request and turned the power off in the building, helping to cut prostitution in the area, Devereaux said.

Before Lau spoke, Community Board 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman told the chamber that her board wanted to change the zoning of downtown Flushing.

To facilitate any changes, Community Board 7 created a downtown Flushing task force.

“The zoning that the board put through is not working,” Bitterman said. “It requires too much parking.”

Bitterman said the community board was concerned that there was no comprehensive plan to address downtown Flushing’s traffic and sanitation problems.

Bitterman and other Flushing representatives met with Daniel Doctoroff, the city’s deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding, to discuss possible solutions in early June.

“As a result of that meeting, there’s going to be additional meetings with the business groups to come up with a comprehensive plan.”

Bitterman also expressed hope the recent arrival of the Empire State Development Corporation in Flushing and the possible 2012 Olympic games will help spur the development of Willets Point.

“Unless you clean up the Willets Point area, you are not going to be able to clean up downtown Flushing,” she said.

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

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