A spike in criminal incidents in Astoria, ranging from gropings to smashed car windows to attempted rape, has led three elected officials representing the neighborhood to introduce legislation to prevent crime in the area.
“We’re here to say ... we’re going to do whatever in our power to make sure that it’s stopped,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said last week.
Gianaris, state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) and City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) stood with community leaders and senior citizens at Gianaris’ 31st Street office to present their plans to reduce crime in Astoria.
All three elected officials prefaced their remarks by saying Astoria was still a safe neighborhood.
But Gianaris said an attempted rape on 21st Street and the groping of a 9-year-old girl at the Astoria library on 31st Street were cause for concern.
“If we don’t put a stop to it now, things are going to get worse and worse,” the senator said. “Today’s groper, today’s mooner can be tomorrow’s rapist.”
Gianaris said he plans to introduce legislation to amend the state’s Good Samaritan Law, which says individuals who help a crime victim or someone in distress cannot be held liable for anything that might happen to the victim.
Gianaris said the law does not apply to businesses and if his change to the law goes through, merchants will be more likely to help victims.
In the Assembly, Simotas said she will be introducing legislation that increases penalties for sex crimes against women.
She will also propose a bill that holds persistent sexual abusers more accountable.
Under the law, a persistent sexual abuser is defined as someone who commits the same type of sex crime within a 10-year period, and time spent in prison is credited toward the 10 years.
Simotas’ bill would have the clock stop during a prison term.
“It’s a loophole in the law and I’m looking to change that,” she said.
Vallone said the surge in crime, which included three shootings in a week, was not the fault of Astoria’s 114th Precinct. He said a neighborhood watch would be a crime deterrent.
“We need more cops,” he said. “We’re going to take back our streets.”
Democratic District Leader Costa Costantinides said the uptick in crime “has been deeply troubling.”
“When you have students running down 23rd Avenue mooning shop owners, that’s serious,” he said.
Tony Meloni, head of the New York Anti-Crime Agency, said the group will be holding seminars and teaching women how to protect themselves from becoming victims of sexual attackers.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2011 Community News Group
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