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107th Pct. captain focused on crime prevention

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After six months as commanding officer of the 107th Precinct, Capt. Paul Valerga said he remains committed to preventing crime, which is his primary focus.

Crime rates in the precinct’s area, which includes Fresh Meadows, Cunningham Heights, Hilltop Village, Electchester and Pomonok, were down to a historic low last year — the lowest in the precinct’s history.

Valerga, who became commanding officer in October, said the precinct is on track in its work to combat crime in the area.

“As of right now, we’re right on par,” he said.

For the period of March 23 through March 29, the number of major crimes decreased to 11 from 15 during the same period last year, a nearly 27 percent drop, according to data released by the precinct.

There were no murders, one rape, two robberies, one felony assault, one burglary, five grand larcenies and one auto grand larceny.

Valerga spent most of his career in Manhattan South. For much of his stint as a police officer, he was working in the auto larceny unit. He was also a squad sergeant in the Midtown North Precinct.

As lieutenant, he was a squad commander in the 13th Precinct, which covers Gramcery Park, the Peter Cooper/Stuyvesant Town residential complex, the lower portion of Rosehill and a portion of Chelsea. As captain, he served as the executive officer in the 101st Precinct, which covers Far Rockaway. He has been in Queens for the last two years.

The main issue currently confronting the precinct is stolen cars, Valerga said. He said he is currently working with the Auto Crime division and that they hope to make a few arrests as the investigation continues.

But the precinct has made strides in other areas. Graffiti was a problem for many years, Valerga said, but the precinct has been able to combat it fairly well, conducting cleanups in the area.

Although graffiti is considered a minor crime, Valerga said he takes the issue seriously and that it demonstrates the utility of the broken windows theory, which he said he uses in his everyday approach.

“If we do nothing about it, then people feel, ‘You know something? I can go out and do anything because the police don’t care,” he said.

He also said the precinct has been able to reduce traffic problems, arising from the area’s numerous highways and high-volume avenues.

Vehicle collisions dropped from 1,158 last year during span from Jan. 1 to April 5 to 1,004 this year during the same time period for a 13 percent decrease.

Valerga said residents have done a good job communicating the numerous issues in the area and described the last six months as “rewarding.”

“The 107th Precinct has a lot of different nationalities, religions, races,” he said. “Getting everybody to work together is always a challenge, but it’s working very well together. If the community and police work together, anything can happen.”

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

Posted 12:00 am, April 13, 2015
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