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An armed robbery of a grocery store in Bayside last week by three teenage suspects has renewed calls by merchants on 32nd Avenue for a bigger police presence and the removal of a bus stop they say encourages crime.
"We need help up here," said Anthony Carollo, a retired police officer who owns Carollo Real Estate on 32nd Avenue and 200th Street. "Do we have to wait until one of the store owners gets killed?"
Carollo was standing in the doorway of his office the morning of Jan. 14, when 17-year-old Charles Simpson allegedly held a loaded sawed-off shotgun to the head of Ralph's Deli owner Chon "Jimmy" Kim and told him to open the cash register, according to officers from the 111th Police Precinct and the criminal complaint filed by the Queens district attorney. Richard Slappy and Isaac Holland, both 19, stole cigarettes and condoms, the DA said.
According to the Queens DA's office, Simpson was enrolled as a student at Bayside High, but it was unclear whether he was still a student there. Attempts to reach officials at Bayside High School were unsuccessful.
Community Affairs Officer Anthony Lombardi of the 111th Police Precinct said a policeman was assigned to patrol the area in the afternoons.
"It's a problem because kids take [32nd Avenue] to take the bus down there," said Lombardi. "I know a lot of people are saying it's worse now, but that's been happening for years," he said.
Carollo said he saw the commotion across the street and had his secretary call 911 as he and some other merchants chased down and tackled one of the suspects.
All three suspects, who are Queens Village residents, were apprehended by police and were each being held on $200,000 bail, the DA's office said. The three have each been charged with multiple counts, including robbery, criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of stolen property.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 25 years in prison, the DA's office said.
Carollo, a retired 11-year NYPD veteran, said burglaries, assaults and graffiti on 32nd Avenue between Jordan and 201st Streets are getting worse.
"Now we've resorted to armed robbery," he said.
Carollo and other merchants in the commercial strip say large groups of youths, some of whom Carollo identified as Bayside High School students, flock west on 32nd Avenue after school and shoplift, get in fights, jump on cars, block the doorways of their shops and generally create a nuisance.
Several shopkeepers have put up "No Trespassing" signs in their storefronts to deter young people from loitering.
"They've broken the glass three times already," said Tony Pant, owner of the Great Wall Chinese restaurant on the corner of 199th Street.
Pant put metal bars along the outside of his glass walls last year to prevent people from leaning on the windows and shattering them. He said students stand in his restaurant while waiting for the bus, scaring potential customers away.
"When they see too many [kids] in here, they don't want to come," he said.
Mary and Jimmy Lee, who have owned a deli on 32nd Avenue for 23 years, pull down the metal grate between 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays.
"They take soda, candy," said Jimmy Lee. "Sometimes they come here and fight each other, take something and go away."
The Lees and other 32nd Avenue merchants want more police and the Q31/Q28 bus stop on the corner of 200th Street moved elsewhere.
Kim, the deli owner, said last week's robbery was the first in eight years at that location. He closes his deli from 3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays.
"I saw they waited for the bus stop, so I didn't pay attention" when they came into his store, said Kim of his accused assailants.
Carollo said potential criminals used the bus stop as a place from which they could case a store without looking suspicious.
"You're giving them time to loiter," said Carollo, who has approached Community Board 11 about removing the stop in front of his office. "If you remove this bus stop, they have no reason to hang around on these corners."
Anne Marie Boranian, district manager of CB 11, said her board was trying to work out a solution to the bus stop issue with the city Department of Transportation.
The district manager emphasized that a shortage of officers in the 111th Precinct was primarily to blame for crime on 32nd Avenue.
"The precinct is not going to be able to monitor circumstances like this with less than 100 cops," said Boranian.
Carollo commended the police for their quick response to the deli robbery but said their presence at school dismissal time was insufficient, given that the armed robbery took place in the mid-morning.
"It can't do enough. It's happening at all hours of the day now," said Carollo.
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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