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Flushing gets first booth to house community cops

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A new, highly visible booth for auxiliary police officers has come to downtown Flushing's busiest street corner - the first to open in a community anywhere in the city.

Police, politicians and community leaders cut the ribbon Friday on the new facility at the intersection of Main Street, Kissena Boulevard and 41st Avenue.

"I think this is another step in the renaissance that is occurring here in Flushing," said state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing).

The booth will be staffed by the 75 members of the 109th auxiliary force. The auxiliaries are volunteers who wear police uniforms but are not actually members of the Police Department. They carry batons but not guns.

Auxiliaries act as the "eyes and ears" for the police, carrying police radios to inform officers of any crimes.

Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), who secured $15,000 in City Council funding for the booth's construction, noted the station was breaking new ground.

"This is the first of its kind, not only in Flushing, not only Queens, but in the entire city of New York," Liu said.

He later qualified his statement, explaining that there are other auxiliary locations in front of Manhattan consulates and City Hall, but the Flushing booth is "the first of its kind that is simply in the community and not in front of a government facility."

The booth is somewhat of an experiment in that its actual impact on crime remains to be determined.

Community leaders predicted the booth, sitting right in front of the busy Flushing Library, would act as a deterrent to crime.

Community Affairs Officer Henry Sookhu of the 109th Precinct said he was not certain the booth would reduce crime but added it could help.

"Anything that will help us reduce crime and make it a safer community we are in support of," he said.

Sookhu said Main Street has seen a slight rise in crime in recent weeks. In particular, thieves have been stealing pocketbooks and headlights off parked cars, he said.

The booth has air conditioning and heating, and will soon be installed with a telephone.

State Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik (D-Flushing) said the cost of maintaining the booth could easily be recovered if it helps stop crime.

"If it prevents one crime, one person from being assaulted who would be put in the hospital for weeks, right there we're saving the taxpayers," he said.

The hours that the booth will be staffed have yet to be determined

Joseph Guzman, an auxiliary with the 109th, said its members would likely work at the station from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays.

"We are here to assist the Police Department in any way we can," Guzman said. "I think the visible presence here will help."

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 141.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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