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The first meeting of Operation Safe Peninsula, an initiative to combat crime in Rockaway created by state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), was a huge failure in the eyes of a dozen or so attendees because Smith failed to show up and the information presented was no different than what can be found at precinct community council meetings or on the Internet.
The brief meeting consisted of the commanding officers of the 100th and 101st precincts rattling off crime statistics while members of the community at the meeting said they thought the discussion should have been more about ways to prevent crime on the peninsula.
“That was the biggest waste of time,” said Glenn DiResto, a Rockaway resident, retired police lieutenant and former City Council candidate. “We could’ve gone to the [precinct] council meetings to get the reports from the officers.”
Felicia Johnson, a Community Board 14 member and chairwoman of the board’s Youth and Education Services Committee, said she was under the impression Smith would be at the meeting.
She said it seemed that the meeting was haphazardly planned.
“I feel like it was just something that was thrown together,” Johnson said. “I’m rushing from my job where I could’ve gotten overtime to hear stats.”
Christopher Lee, a community liaison for Smith who ran the meeting, said the forum was only an introductory session and that further meetings would address the concerns of the attendees.
Smith spokeswoman Tai White said the senator was out of town for a meeting and was unable to attend Operation Safe Peninsula.
“I heard a lot of people were disappointed that the senator wasn’t there,” she said. “We’re definitely going to try to have him out at the next meeting.”
Deputy Inspector Tom Barrett, commanding officer of the 100th Precinct, which covers part of the Rockaway peninsula, said the precinct has logged an increase of 13 major crimes so far from this time last year.
“This year with crime we are struggling,” he said.
But he said the precinct has beefed up the presence of housing officers near the Hammels Houses, where an undercover drug operation led to the arrest of nearly 50 people March 3.
“As a result, we’re seeing a decrease in crime for the 28-day period,” he said. “Right now, we seem to be doing pretty well.”
Barrett said the 100th Precinct has seen an increase in robberies, grand larcenies and burglaries.
He said most of the burglaries have been commercial ones because of the new construction on the peninsula.
The 100th Precinct has also had a problem with youth-related robberies, he said.
Deputy Inspector Brian McMahon, commanding officer of the 101st Precinct, which covers the eastern end of the peninsula, said the precinct has seen an increase of 31 major crimes in a 13-week period.
McMahon said there have been 21 grand larcenies this year compared to nine for the same period in 2009 and there have been 37 robberies this year compared to 22 last year.
“We got a lot of young kids committing robberies. It took a while to catch them” because they had no prior record, McMahon said.
The precinct has also seen a rash of shootings, with six committed this year compared to one for the same period in 2009.
McMahon said most of the shootings have occurred in the Ocean Bay Houses on Beach 54th Street.
The precinct has also seen a sharp rise in stolen cars — 21 this year compared to nine in the same period in 2009.
“We don’t know if it’s because of the economy or not, but it’s something we want to keep track of,” McMahon said.
Danny Ruscillo, president of the 100th Precinct Community Council, said he was disappointed by the meeting.
“We can go online and get the stats. That’s public knowledge,” he said. “There should’ve been more to this presentation.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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