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111th anti-graffiti unit seeks helping hands

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"Ninety-nine percent of the graffiti you do see out there is not gang-related," Police Officer Donna Kearney of the citywide Anti-Graffiti Vandalism Unit told the monthly meeting of the North Bellerose Civic Association, held at MS 172 in Floral Park June 2.

The task force is based in Bayside's 111th Precinct and responds to graffiti sites all over the city. But Kearney said the unit does not have enough manpower to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"NYPD is so short-handed it's not funny anymore," she said. "The only way we can fight graffiti is with the community's help."

She said residents could help by documenting the time and place whenever they spot graffiti and reporting it to police within 30 days, even if the site is not on their property.

"Make a description of it and call 911," Kearney said. If vandals are caught in the act, they can face up to 200 hours of community service, often assigned to clean up neighborhood graffiti, she said.

Quality-of-life issues such as graffiti and noise complaints are a major concern in neighborhoods like Bellerose, and the area's 105th Police Precinct has made an extra effort to crack down on violations. But Pete Dwyer, an officer in the Community Affairs section, told the civic meeting that the precinct did not have the staffing it once did, somewhat limiting its ability to address quality-of-life complaints.

"They're spread kind of thin," he said of the 105th's officers, noting that there are fewer beat cops now than in years past, resulting in each pair having a larger area to cover. The precinct plans to add officers this summer to its "party car," the patrol that addresses nightly noise complaints, Dwyer said.

The 105th runs from Glen Oaks and Bellerose in the north along the Nassau border to Brookville in the south. Through May 23 the precinct had recorded a nearly 14 percent drop in major crimes compared with the same time period last year.

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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