112th crime prevention officer warns Forest Hills about laptop thefts at Starbucks

City Comptroller John Liu informs Community Board 6 of the audits his office has conducted as CB 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio looks on. Photo by Howard Koplowitz
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City Comptroller John Liu said he has beefed up the office’s audit and contract review functions since his election two years ago during a meeting of Community Board 6 last week.

Liu said auditing city agencies for mismanagement and waste and investigating whether city contracts are over budget or overdue are among his top priorities.

“We review city contracts very carefully,” Liu said, which included the CityTime contract that was 1,000 percent over budget and had a projected cost of $63 million, but an actual cost of more than $700 million.

Liu said a recent audit of the city Economic Development Corp. discovered the agency improperly withheld $25 million of taxpayer funds from the city. He said the agency has agreed to pay those funds over four years.

Liu also brought up audits on the underutilization of pre-kindergarten funds that he said led to the deprivation of thousands of toddlers from getting pre-kindergarten spots.

The comptroller said the city Department of Education is a “primary target” for reviews by his office “because they are by far our biggest budget item.”

But Liu said no city department is immune from audits.

“We’re looking at every agency across the board,” he said.

“Sometimes commissioners get a little flustered,” Liu said. “I think it’s safe to say they’d rather have a root canal.”

The comptroller said the city has projected “slow, but some growth,” and that the country’s near default on its debt earlier this year “had a detrimental impact on the city’s economy.”

Liu said the world’s economic situation, especially the current debt crisis in Europe, has an impact for the city.

“Whatever happens in Europe, it will affect New York City’s economy,” he said.

The board also heard from 112th Precinct Crime Prevention Officer Zina Vailes, who gave CB 6 tips to prevent them from being targets.

She said burglaries are up 8 percent in the precinct year-to-date.

Vailes said many thefts can be prevented and warned women to never leave their pocketbooks on a chair when they eat at a public place.

She said Starbucks is “notorious” for thefts for those who bring their laptops and other electronics with them to the coffee chain.

Vailes urged Starbucks customers to take out their laptops after they purchase coffee and not leave it behind when they approach the counter.

“Don’t whip it out unless you’re going to be using it right away,” she said.

Vailes said she offered to post fliers detailing crime prevention tips at Starbuckses within the precinct, but the businesses “don’t want negative attention.”

As shoppers prepare for Black Friday, Vailes said women should ditch their “big, beautiful, $1,200 handbags” for smaller purses while shopping.

“If you must bring a handbag, have the handbag on your lap,” she said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 8:09 pm, November 16, 2011
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