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Alarming e-mail worries eastern Queens residents

A vaguely threatening e-mail sent to eastern Queens homeowners early this month with the aim of selling home security systems backfired when complaints from recipients resulted in the worker's firing.

The e-mail, with subject header "Free security alarm systems to community due to raising [sic] crime in our city," was sent by Yvonne Brown, a worker at Elmont-based First Detection Systems, a spokesman for Tyco International said. Tyco International is the parent company of ADT and First Detection is an authorized retailer of ADT products.

The e-mail went on to offer homeowners free security systems (presumably on a trial basis), citing the rising crime rate.

"Every day our mayor is raising taxes and cutting something in this city," the message reads. "To us this means an increase in the crime rate!!!!!!!!!"

Community Board 13 Chairman Rich Hellenbrecht said he received the message May 10 and subsequently spoke with others in eastern Queens who had as well.

He said the tactic reminded him of block-busting, a technique used by real-estate agents to induce residents to sell their homes by playing upon their fear of crime and declining property values.

"The flavor that I got from the mail was very similar to that, surely intended to scare people into buying their product," he said.

It was not clear which exact geographical area was the target of the e-mails, but Hellenbrecht said civic associations in Bellerose and Queens Village had complained to him.

Hellenbrecht wrote ADT's corporate offices in Boca Raton, Fla. after receiving the message. He got a reply from the local dealer's office indicating that Brown had been fired.

Gary Holmes, a spokesman for Tyco International, said there were no formal written rules about sales tactics but indicated that the company frowned upon any sales tactic that played upon residents' fear.

"There a strong code of ethics here at Tyco, which requires our employees to conduct themselves honestly and truthfully with the public," he said.

Despite temporary upsurges in home burglaries in isolated areas - for instance, Glen Oaks and Bellerose last summer - crime, including burglaries, is down.

According to 105th Precinct statistics, burglaries are down 3.1 percent compared to this time last year and down 68 percent over the last 10 years.

The 105th Precinct and Community Board 13 cover eastern Queens from Glen Oaks and New Hyde Park south to Rosedale and Laurelton.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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