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Police representatives attending the Feb. 15 meeting listened to parent and teacher grievances on everything from potential predators lurking around the playground to kids beating each other up and scattering before police arrive.Deputy Inspector of the 109th Police Precinct Thomas Cea said with the assistance of 25 new police officers earlier this year, the precinct, which covers Flushing, has made 300 arrests in the vicinity of the playground since the beginning of the school year in September. He said due to complaints, the precinct is paying more attention to the area.Parents expressed concerns over the local presence of the notorious El Salvadorian MS-13 gang and the emerging thuggish-type behavior of a group of young kids calling themselves "GC.""As a society, we've been like an ostrich hiding our heads in the sand like nothing's going on," said parent Monique Minnus.Queens North Gang Unit Captain Kevin Catalina tried to quell rumors that the MS-13 gang is a spreading like an epidemic."MS-13 is a problem throughout the country," he said. "But thankfully, they've been less of a problem here."He added that while MS-13 did exist, citing one of the three precinct murders last year as evidence, they have not been as prominent as the Bloods or Crips.Offering tips on how to tell if a child is in a gang, Catalina said the most obvious giveaways are colored clothing like bandanas. Often such clothing is not a fashion statement but a flag of allegiance, and parents who claim ignorance, should know better, he said."As a parent, you should be addressing that because by the time I get to addressing it, it's too late," he said. "I put these guys in jail."Lois Lee, director of the after-school program at PS 20, said youth from several schools seem to congregate on the playground after school, where kids are often jumped, and when the cops arrive, the kids scatter."Everyone is concerned about the statistics, but no one is looking at the cause," she said. "We are in a culture of violence now. Listen to teen music. Violence is glorified and our country is at war. The kids see that and think if it's OK for the adults to fight, it's OK for them too."Lee said the meeting was a needed acknowledgment by Flushing officials that they are listening to the parent's and the teacher's concerns."The parents were very satisfied with that meeting," she said. "Now the police are paying attention to that park. Now with the public outcry, they are doing something about it."Local scoutmaster Evergreen Chou, who went to the precinct several months ago with concerns that he was losing scouts to gang violence, said that while still an issue, the violence has been on the wane."There has been more of a police presence," he said. "[Cea] said he'd do it and he did it and that's nice."Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2006 Community Newspaper Group
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