Today’s news:

Auto thefts remain high in 109th Pct.

"Hopefully, we'll see a decrease of cars stolen in the 109," Whelan told the community council meeting Jan. 10. Last year, the city's crime statistics showed car thefts rose only slightly in the 109th, the precinct that covers Flushing, Whitestone, College Point and Bay Terrace. The numbers reflected an increase of 2 percent from 474 in 2005 to 484 grand larceny auto thefts in 2006. While only a minor shift, auto theft in the 109th is still at a higher level than most other precincts throughout the city.In light of the high number, the precinct will be the beneficiary of a new deployment plan that sends at least two investigators to respond to every auto theft."We are high overall in the total number of cars stolen in the city," Whelan said. "We're reaping the benefits now and we're getting additional resources."Carjackers in the area are targeting specific models, he said. In the last month, 46 cars were stolen in the 109th. Of those, nine were the Ford Econoline vans and seven were high-end models like SUVs, Hummers, Cadillac Escalades and Lincolns. Whelan said that in the week prior to the 109th Community Council meeting, the precinct had 10 cars on the midnight patrol just to target grand larceny autos. In other news, the police officers who ensured the safe return of the thousands of dollars after the Christmas burglary at St. Mel's church were honored with Cop of the Month Awards.Two men were arrested in the heist in which roughly $20,000 was stolen from the church while parishioners attended a Christmas Day service. About $6,000 of the money was cash, and the rest was in checks, police said.Squad Commander Lt. Tommy Laforta said police had recovered $5,900 in cash. "At least we got all the cash back," said Laforta. "And my guys right here deserve all the credit."Police solved the crime quickly by interviewing witnesses and tracking down suspicious license plates."We've had so much negative publicity about the Police Department and here in 48 hours it was solved," said 109th Community Council President Wanda Beck-Antosh. "It was just like a TV show."Honored at the meeting were: Detective Christopher Austin, Sgt. Joseph Manfredi, Lt. Thomas Girlforti, Police Officer Edward Lee and Detective Al Capobianco.Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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