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Faced with a rash of home burglaries in the Glen Oaks and Bellerose neighborhoods last summer, Deputy Inspector Michael Bryan often wished he had more than the 200 officers assigned to the 105th precinct.
Then he found that he did.
Using Police Department databases, the 105th's commanding officer identified more than 1,000 department employees - both civilians and officers, including retirees - who lived in the area. In late August and early September, each received a letter asking him or her to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior.
"Police officers work crazy hours. They're home during the day," Bryan told the North Bellerose Civic Association at the organization's monthly meeting May 7. "We asked them to be our eyes and ears."
According to Lt. John Hall, who coordinated the project with Bryan, the response from the NYPD employees was immediate. He said the precinct received at least 30 or 40 calls from off-duty officers and employees concerning suspicious behavior in the neighborhood.
"They have a better knowledge of their neighborhood, better than the average officer here in the 105," said Hall, one of two officers in charge of special operations at the precinct.
"Say I know Ms. Jones, she's 85, she goes to bingo on Tuesdays, and I see someone sneaking around her property," he added. "There's no way anyone here in this precinct would know that sort of thing."
The technique, while creative and effective, is not one that works in every community. Glen Oaks, Bellerose, New Hyde Park and Floral Park - modest middle-class neighborhoods traditionally popular with city employees - happen to have an usually large population of police officers and aides, Hall said.
"Considering the small area, there's a huge number," he said.
The burglary problem, which according to Hall flared up to almost three incidents a week during the summer, went away as autumn approached. Although beefed-up patrols by the precinct were probably responsible for scaring off the burglars, Hall said the mailing campaign certainly played a significant role.
There was a brief resurgence of home robberies around the Christmas holiday, but the problem has once again subsided, Hall said.
With summer approaching, Hall added that he hoped everyone - and not just off-duty Police Department employees - would be vigilant.
He urged citizens to lock doors, close windows and leave lights on, even in the hot days of July and August. He added that no one should be afraid of flooding the precinct with meaningless or trivial tips.
"Nine times out of 10, it isn't anything, but that one could be the break we're looking for," Hall said. "It's better to call. There's nothing to lose."
Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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