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Queens Chronicle

Alleged Pan Am-related crime spike debunked

Contrary to some media reports, area officials say streets are safe

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Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:26 am, Thu Jul 31, 2014.

One of the biggest fears many Elmhurst residents had regarding last month’s conversion of the Pan American Hotel into a homeless shelter was a potential increase in crime throughout the area.

In the seven weeks since homeless families began occupying the building, the 110th Precinct and area officials say that worry has gone unfounded.

Multiple Chinese language media outlets have reported an uptick in minor crimes, such as shoplifting and trespassing, being allegedly committed by shelter residents at area restaurants and businesses.

However, Deputy Inspector Ronald Leyson, the 110th Precinct’s commanding officer, said at Tuesday’s protest outside the shelter that crime has actually decreased in the area around the shelter at 79-00 Queens Blvd. since homeless families started moving in June 6, according to a search of the precinct’s crime database.

“We have a slight increase in crime in the 110th Precinct, but what I did was a radius search of 2,000 feet around the hotel and actually it showed crime has decreased since the residents moved into the shelter,” Leyson said. “So we do not have an increase in major crimes or minor crimes in the area since anyone moved into the shelter.”

In a three-block radius around the Pan American building, four burglaries, two grand larcenies and two car thefts were committed in May, the month before the shelter opened. Those eight crimes help make up the 41 various offenses committed in the same area during the first five months of the year.

Leyson did not give the precise figures for June when saying crime had decreased.

In terms of crime occurring inside the shelter, he said, only one incident, a misdemeanor assault, has been reported since families began moving in early last month.

Leyson added that he has not increased the number of patrols in the immediate area as conditions have not warranted it, despite a World Journal article published July 11 claiming the precinct had deployed more officers around the shelter.

Community Board 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol, like Leyson, said he had not been notified by residents or area business owners of any crime spike.

“No, I have not heard anything. We have not heard anything official regarding an uptick in crime,” Cassagnol said. “We have not heard from any business owners or supermarkets. They may not know to call here, but I haven’t heard anything so far.”

A press release issued by the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together civic group to announce Tuesday’s protest outside the Pan American Hotel made reference to reports of a crime increase and reinforced its wish for safe streets.

“There has been a decline in the quality of life of the area since the opening of the shelter,” the group said. “The 110th Precinct is undermanned and overburdened as is. We want a safe neighborhood!”

When asked if she knew of any specific instances of crimes committed by shelter residents, COMET President Roe Daraio said she is not privy to such information.

“You would have to ask the 110th Precinct about any tangible increase in crime. There allegedly have been petty crimes at area businesses but to my knowledge none have been reported,” Daraio said. “Even if they were reported, and the thief has left the premises, there would be no way to prove he or she was from the shelter.”

Newtown Civic Association Treasurer Robert Valdes-Clausell said his group is investigating troubling rumors of crimes occurring inside the hotel.

“Our NCA public safety committee has heard of various incidents at the Pan Am Shelter over the last couple of days,” Valdes-Clausell said. “Reports of drug selling inside the hotel and possible use of the hotel by certain residents as a prostitution pimping hub are under investigation by our public safety committee.”

Marty Wilson, the owner of the AAMCO franchise at 79-14 Queens Blvd., directly next to the Pan American building, said the hotel’s conversion into a homeless shelter originally worried him, but he hasn’t noticed any instances of suspicious activity since the shelter opened.

“When I heard about it, I wasn’t happy,” Wilson, the owner of the franchise for over a decade, said. “It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, a lot of loitering, hanging out, people looking undesirable. I’m not as negative on it as people would like me to be.”

As COMET organized another protest outside the Pan American building on Tuesday, Wilson called on the community to just accept the people living in the shelter and move forward.

“Homeless people need a place to go, so long as they respect the property, respect the area and it doesn’t turn into a slum,” he said. “So let’s move on with this.”

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1 comment:

  • CleanUpJamaicaQueens posted at 8:10 am on Fri, Jul 25, 2014.

    CleanUpJamaicaQueens Posts: 121

    An upswing in crime was not the biggest fear with this shelter. Most people grumbled about the overcrowding of schools and especially about the city doing a a major sneaky job of putting this shelter into the community without the community's input. Most people do no think that crime rises when a "family homeless shelter" is put in their community. This is just another example to get the public to say, oh, okay, put more in my community, they are not so bad.

    Another factor, this shelter was put in just a short period ago and it is hardly filled to capacity, so how could the crime aspect even be looked at. How about revisiting that issue in about a year.

    I don't find that crime really goes up with shelters, but living in Jamaica where there are 10, there are noise/behavior issues with some of these places, due to the types of people that go into shelters and garbage issues as well. Some of these place tend to lax on rules and outside cleanliness. Plus it is not a great selling point, "and right across the street from your nice apartment building is a homeless shelter.

    Since homeless shelters have become big business and many are run by "for profit" companies, there would be no incentive to make sure people do not have to rely on homeless shelters. It will be more like, let's fill them up to capacity and let's get people from other states to come here. It is the prison fiasco situation in this country, it has now become big business and a way of life.

    The only real "homeless crisis" in this city is the one that the powers to be are inventing. Dig deeper to find out just how these "homeless families" are, how they got there, where they came from etc.

    Here are the statistics, there are about 54,667 homeless people, including 13,001 homeless families with 23,116 homeless children. But how about breaking those numbers down. The ones that are not families (who make up the majority) are they drug addicts or alcoholics, who never got their act together. Are they chronically unemployed, who never really worked. Are they mentally ill (a whole other story). How about the families, how did they get to that point, if they new they were heading down that road, why not move to another state where cost of living is much lower than NYC, where you can live comfortably without a huge salary. But if you have been chronically unemployed, why have so many kids. Are all these people from NYC or are they from other parts of the country? How many are undocumented? These are all legitimate questions, since the powers to be state this is a "crisis". With more like 9 million plus people in NY, that is a very very small percentage who are homeless and not actually a crisis.