Today’s news:

109th violent crimes fall, burglaries up 13 percent

Violent crimes in the 109th Precinct declined over the first half of 2002, but burglaries and car thefts rose, police statistics show.

Rape declined by 41.6 percent compared to the same period last year, while robberies dropped 10.8 percent and felony assaults dropped 11.9 percent. The murder rate remained unchanged at two.

Burglaries increased by 13 percent, however, jumping from 468 to 529 cases in the 109th Precinct, which covers Flushing, Whitestone, College Point and Bay Terrace.

Car thefts increased by 14.1 percent, with 566 vehicles stolen in the first half of 2002 compared to 496 during the first half of 2001.

The increase in burglaries and car thefts pushed the overall crime rate up by 2.6 percent in the precinct.

Grand larcenies, the seventh major crime category, fell by 7.1 percent.

Deputy Inspector Owen Monaghan and Capt. Michael Lau have targeted burglaries and car thefts since their arrival at the precinct in February.

At a meeting in late June, Lau described burglaries and car thefts as “the two thorns in our side.”

“I am not happy with the increase at this point,” said Monaghan of the two crimes.

Monaghan credited targeting quality-of-life crimes as leading to the reduction in violent crime.

“It’s the back-to-basics approach,” he said. “We are engaging those who are committing low-level, quality-of-life crimes.”

“We’re constantly doing everything we can to combat grand larceny autos and burglaries,” said Community Affairs Police Officer Ki-Soo Kim. “We have crime prevention programs and we have burglary prevention tips.”

Kim said the precinct often answers calls for its free burglary prevention surveys of homes and its vehicle identification number etching program, where the VIN number of the automobile is placed on the windshield.

The precinct recently added officers to its burglary and grand larceny auto units.

Despite the precinct’s targeting of the crimes, burglaries increased by 47.6 percent and car thefts by 11.8 percent during the month of June.

“The precinct is a very affluent area,” Monaghan said. “There are a lot of targets here. The population has increased tremendously as far as apartments and private houses. The targets available have increased.”

For the most part, the crime rates match the patterns of the other seven precincts which make up Patrol Borough Queens North.

In Patrol Borough Queens North, murders, rapes, robberies and felonious assaults all dropped, while burglaries rose by 14.2 percent.

The 109th differed from the overall Queens North rates in that car thefts in Queens North dropped by 8.6 percent, while grand larcenies increased in Queens North by 6.6 percent.

Kim described the typical burglar and car thief as someone who would do anything to avoid being seen. With the precinct cut through by several highways, it is susceptible to criminals looking to make a quick getaway, Kim said.

Many of the car thieves are residents of South Jamaica, the Bronx and Jackson Heights, while many others live within the confines of the precinct, Kim said.

Despite the recent spike in the two crimes, the burglary and car theft rates remain significantly lower compared to the early 1990s.

Burglaries have dropped by 55.2 percent compared to the first half of 1993, while car thefts have decreased by 71.1 percent.

“Car thefts compared to several years ago have been going down,” Kim said.

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

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