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Queens Chronicle

Shopping safety for holidays, hurricanes

104th Precinct counsels common sense approach for shopping safety

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Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2012 10:30 am

Major crime has been down in the 104th Precinct for the last year, and the NYPD would like to keep it that way during the holidays.

Officers from the 104th and the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau spoke with more than two dozen residents on Nov. 28 at a meeting of the precinct’s Community Council.

“I have three words: Lock it up,” Deputy Inspector Michael Cody, commanding officer of the 104th, said. “So many of our incident reports involve unlocked doors.”

Officers said while some people are shopping at malls, others are opportunists roaming parking lots shopping for unlocked car doors. And he added that even a locked door may not deter a thief who sees merchandise that he wants in a car.

“Then you have a repair bill for your window and the cost to rebuy the things that were stolen,” Cody said. “Don’t leave anything in view in your car.”

Cody also reminded people that is safer to carry only the cash that is required for one specific trip then to carry larger amounts needlessly.

Officer Robert Semler of Public Affairs said the biggest help the department can get during the holidays is from women securing their purses while shopping.

“Don’t leave it open; don’t leave it in the car,” he said. “I always give that advice to my wife and recently she left her purse in the car. Last month someone went shopping at Macy’s with her credit cards.”

Semler also took a poll of the men in the room, asking where they carry their wallets.

“Always carry your wallets in your front pocket. Never in the back,” Semler said. “Malls are crowded. People bump into you, and pickpockets are fast. You’ll never feel a thing.”

Semler also said every precinct has forms that will allow people to list their valuable possessions with unique serial numbers in a department database, much like has been done for decades with bicycles and other big-ticket items. If the items are recovered after being lost or stolen, the owner is immediately identifiable.

Officer Thomas Bell of the 104th said more and more personal electronics are coming with something akin to Apple’s “Find My iPhone” application.

“We have the Apple software, and we’ve already been very successful at recovering those,” Bell said. Officer Eddie Soto of Public Affairs said the technology, if used by the owner, is getting better.

“If you are here and the guy who took your phone is in Coney Island or the Rockaways, it can tell us what building he is in,” Soto said. “They look really surprised and get real nervous when they open the door and see cops.”

Cody also said that people must beware of vultures seeking to take advantage of them in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

“If a guy knocks on your door and says ‘I’m Joe, the discount electrician up from Georgia. I’m licensed in four states,’ think twice,” Cody said. “If it sounds too good to be true ...”

Officers warned about people selling used cars who may be offering bargains on vehicles that have sustained flood damage after Sandy, damage they might not be telling a prospective buyer about.

“It may look brand new but has suffered serious damage,” the inspector said.

Cody also said police have had some complaints about a handful of tow truck operators who move a car and then require exorbitant amounts of cash to return it to its owner.

“The department is monitoring towing companies,” Cody said. “Most of these guys are good businessmen. But a few have ulterior motives.”

Welcome to the discussion.