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Point of View: College Point meeting targets crime prevention

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At a recent town meeting, police officers from the 109th Precinct gave College Point residents tips on how to fight crime through the Blockwatch Program.

It’s a good idea for cops to brief townsfolk on how to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. Crime and security are always on everybody’s minds. It’s hard to find a town that is immune to crime.

We should never let strangers into our houses without a reason. It’s easier said than done, though. Over the years, I have read reports that silver-tongued con artists or criminals have often tricked older people into opening their doors. Once inside, the perpetrators robbed and, in some cases, killed their victims.

I had a similar experience. On a summer afternoon 32 years ago in Pampa, Texas, a woman in her late 30s knocked on the door of my house, and I responded. She said that her car broke down and wanted to use my phone to call her husband. So I let her in to use the phone in my bedroom.

I found out her real intention was to survey the inside of my house. It was a terrible invasion of privacy.

A couple of days later, I found a person prowling about my house. The incident repeated almost every night. It seemed the two cases were related.

As a newspaper worker, I didn’t get home until the wee hours of morning. Apparently knowing my schedule, a mysterious caller bombarded my wife every night with weird questions about our family.

I was worried that something would happen to her. So I tried to buy her a handgun for self-defense. In those days in Texas, buying a gun was pretty easy. But she was too nervous to accept that idea.

Frightened, we had no choice but to move out of that area to avoid the nuisance. Had we stayed, the consequences might have been inconceivable.

In retrospect, I think I made a poor judgment. I should have reported the incidents to police.

Three decades later, right here in this part of New York City, I thought I lived in a safer neighborhood until three months ago when I became a victim of a petty larceny. One night, I forgot to close a rear door of my car, which was parked in the driveway; the next morning I discovered that $5 or $6 in quarters had been taken from the container under the radio panel. Fortunately, my car remained intact. And earlier, a brand new shovel was stolen from my front yard.

It doesn’t make any sense to report such trivialities to police, but I have learned a lesson on how to prevent such recurrences.

Flushing has gained notoriety for being a hot spot for car thefts. Police say many of the stolen vehicles end up at chop shops, where the cars are taken apart. The parts could be worth three times the price of a car. It’s a very fertile field, isn’t it? Apparently, car theft is here to stay; however, alarm systems and clubs can help deter thieves.

It’s reported that ne’er-do-wells sometimes play tricks on motorists. One such scheme is a perpetrator yelling to a driver, “You got a flat tire!” When the driver pulls over and gets out to check the tire, the thief either gets in the car and drives off or grabs valuables inside the vehicle.

We should not take security for granted. We should be on the alert for any scheme. Bear in mind that some serious crimes occur in quiet neighborhoods.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, we have been paying more attention to international terror attacks than domestic crime-fighting.

Law enforcement officers need our help and our eyes and ears. Criminals cannot and will not operate in areas where citizens are alert.

If we observe suspicious activity, police say, we should not take direct action, confront the individual or reveal our suspicions; however, we should record as many details as possible, such as the license plate number, sex and race, as well as notify the appropriate authorities as soon as possible.

In the meantime, as the war against Iraq seems imminent, we also have to keep an eye on possible terror activity in our neighborhoods. Terrorists are trained to blend in and assimilate to their surroundings.

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