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Malcolm Smith eyes end to violence

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Crime in southeast Queens was on the rise last year, especially violent incidents, and community members and leaders gathered last week to come up with ways to stop the terror.

State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) held a meeting at Tomasina’s catering hall in St. Albans on Jan. 14, in light of last week’s murder of an MTA bus driver and aspiring rapper outside the South Jamaica Houses. The homicides came just weeks after new NYPD statistics showed that the two precincts in Jamaica had rises in major crime areas, including murders, robbery and burglary.

“The overall numbers we’ve seen are down, but when people are getting shot, no one cares about that,” said Inspector Michael Blake, commanding officer of the 103rd Precinct, which covers Jamaica.

The precinct recorded a 3.31 percent decrease in overall crime, but had an 81 percent surge in shooting incidents with 38 reported shootings in 2008 vs. 21 in 2007, according to Blake.

Patrol Bureau Queens South, which oversees the 100th, 101st, 102nd, 103rd, 105th, 106th, 107th and 113th precincts, had a 68 percent jump in homicides last year, with 68 reported murders in 2008 compared to 42 in 2007, police statistics showed. Vivian McMillian, community council president of the 113th Precinct, which had 15 reported killings and 690 grand larceny incidents, said the recession had a large role to play in the increase in crime.

“It wasn’t as bad in my community like it is now,” she said. “With the economy, everything is haywire.”

The 113th Precinct covers St. Albans, Hollis, Springfield Gardens, South Ozone Park, South Jamaica, Addisleigh Park and Locust Manor.

The precinct heads and residents suggested that the police reach out to the younger members of the neighborhood so they can help them stay out of gangs. Smith, who was elected to be the Senate’s majority leader earlier this month, said he would continue to push his Operation S.N.U.G. program across the state.

The initiative focuses on the state’s teenagers and promotes an anti-violence culture through community centers and after-school programs.

“The key thing is to get these kids to do something after school,” he said.

On the crime-fighting side, the precinct heads said they would be taking measures to decrease the violence. Blake said the 103rd will be getting a new set of rookie officers to patrol the streets of the downtown Jamaica area through the NYPD’s Operation Impact program this winter and Deputy Inspector Kristal Johnson, the commanding officer of the 113th, said Queens South would be sending around 40 officers to heavy crime areas near the Rockaways.

In addition to the extra officers, Johnson said the Queens district attorney’s office will be setting up a gun buy-back program with the precinct and southeast Queens churches in February.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

 

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