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Electronic eyes could help 86th St. - Surveillance cameras could help bust pickpockets, 62nd Police Pct. captain says

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Hey you, Mr. Pickpocket, say cheese! Sticky-fingered thieves preying on victims along 86th Street in Bensonhurst could soon be finding themselves immortalized in celluloid if an NYPD pilot program comes to the 62nd Precinct. During a recent meeting of the Bensonhurst West End Community Council [BWECC], Captain Kevin Sprague, the commanding officer of the 62nd Precinct, said that while the new cameras haven’t been implemented in the area, they could be an asset in helping rid the shopping strips of pickpockets and purse-snatchers. “It’s a deterrent and at the same time we could catch a lot of people in the act,” Sprague said of the white boxy cameras that can currently be found in more crime-prone areas in Patrol Borough Brooklyn South during the pilot program’s shakedown cruise. Far from hidden, the easily recognizable cameras take digital pictures that could be used to take snaps of a crime in progress or take a pic of the license plate of a car that has been used in a crime. “Once we have [a pickpocket’s] picture, we could use that to get him in the future,” Sprague said. BWECC president Carmine Santa Maria said that cameras along 86th Street will go a long way toward helping deter crimes of all kinds. “Cameras like that helped expose that Sanitation guy breaking the light bulbs,” Santa Maria said, explaining that a merchant’s hidden video camera caught a Department of Sanitation worker breaking several florescent bulbs in front of the business and then writing a ticket for not having a clean storefront. As of this writing, the Department of Sanitation was still investigation the merchant’s findings. Sprague said that he encourages all merchants to install video cameras. Ideally, video cameras should be placed inside stores as well as outside, “panning the front door,” Sprague said. Overall crime down, robberies up As of February 4, felony crime in Bensonhurst and Bath Beach was down by just over 21 percent. The number of robberies and felony assaults in the 62nd Precinct, however, had jumped by 64 percent and 38 percent, respectively. According to the hard numbers, 28 robberies were committed in the 62nd Precinct between January 1 and February 4. During the same weeks in 2006, 17 robberies – about 11 fewer – were reported. Statistics show that 18 felony assaults have been reported to the Bath Avenue station house since the beginning of the year. Last year at this time, 13 assaults had been reported to police. Despite these increases, the precinct has seen a 35 percent drop in car thefts, a 32 percent drop in grand larcenies, which include crimes committed by pickpockets, purse snatchers and identity thieves, and a nearly 33 percent drop in burglaries. “The biggest reduction of last year was in burglaries,” Sprague told BWECC members. “We had a tremendous reduction in our burglaries because we had all of the people in the command who have been arrested for burglary.” Burglars, Sprague said, are creatures of habit. “They stay with that crime,” he said. “If we see a spike in burglaries in the command, nine out of ten times they [the identified burglars] are going to be the ones responsible.”

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