More than 40 members of the community gathered at the district office of state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) last week for the first of a planned series of meetings this year between residents and officials from their NYPD precincts.
“Operation Safe Southeast Queens” has been a regular program of the senator’s for a number of years.
Talk for the evening covered crime statistics, crime prevention and frank exchanges between police and residents who have been victims of crime, or have had negative experiences with police officers.
With the Senate in session, Smith was in Albany and unable to attend the hour-long meeting, but in a statement the next day he said the benefits are numerous.
“Crime is a serious issue affecting the district,” he said. “One of the best ways people can protect themselves is to be informed.”
Smith invites all residents of his district to attend the meetings, which are generally held at 7 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month “and arm themselves with knowledge.” His office is at 205-20 Jamaica Ave.
Sgt. Edward Kane of the 105th Precinct said, for example, that the area has seen a recent spike in so-called “deception robberies” in which criminals have been targeting people —usually elderly — coming from banks, usually by puncturing their tires.
“They offer to help,” Kane said. “Then in some instances a second person comes up and sprays the victim with something like shaving cream. While the first person is helping the victim, he also is going through their pockets.”
He said one resident recently lost about $500 to the ruse. He said the criminals also may tell the victim that their car has received a ticket.
Dep. Insp. Charles McEvoy, commanding officer of the 103rd Precinct, was direct with parents of a teenager who recently was stopped by officers of the 103rd in his car.
The parents said officers allegedly found a small quantity of marijuana which they believe was left by a friend or possibly planted by officers. Their son is a member of the Police Explorers, a program run out of every precinct in the city geared toward young men and women in their late teens who might be interested in a career in law enforcement.
McEvoy, saying he would address the matter with the parents and their son personally after the meeting, said he needs to know about possible improper conduct on the part of any officer under his command.
Their son was not charged.
He and Sgt. Joanne Gonzalez of the 113th Precinct also offered advice for a mother who fears for her son’s safety in a traffic stop, considered by police to be one of the most dangerous situations for an officer.
“I’ve told him to put his hands on his head,” the woman said.
“Have him turn on the overhead light at night,” Gonzalez said. “He doesn’t have to put his hands on his head. Put them on the steering wheel.”
“Anywhere your hands can be seen,” McEvoy said. “And cooperate with the officer. Confrontation is not the way to go in that situation.”