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Queens Chronicle

Residents blast latest Creedmoor escape

Civic leaders seek answers, wider probe after man hops fences, flees

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Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:23 am, Thu Jun 19, 2014.

On June 2, Clifford Brown became the second person this year to escape from the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens Village, and residents and elected officials are calling for instant action from the state.

Brown, described in published reports as mentally challenged and schizophrenic, also is the third person with a criminal record to flee the facility since March 2013.

He was captured hours later by the NYPD in the nearby 101st Precinct. By comparison, Raymond Morillo, who escaped on Jan. 28, was free for more than 24 hours before he was picked up in Memphis, Tenn.

Several residents expressed their renewed outrage on May 5 at a press conference organized by state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside). Avella was successful in getting a state investigation launched following the Morillo incident.

“I am a resident of Bellerose and I live about a mile away from Creedmoor,” Richard Hellenbrecht of the Queens Civic Congress said in a joint statement issued by Avella’s office. “This is very scary to the civic associations and the residents and the people who live nearby who are within walking distance of this location.”

Following the January incident, residents drafted a seven-point plan to deal with security issues. Hellenbrecht said residents are now demanding action.

“This hospital has been in the area for 40 years,” he said. “They should by now have figured out ways to keep the patients on the premises and properly secured.”

Brown was able to climb a pair of fences — both well more than twice the height of an average man — defeat other security measures and get off the grounds.

Morillo switched clothes with a visitor, took the visitor’s access pass and walked out the door.

Avella spared the state’s Office of Mental Health nothing last week.

“At this point, it is apparent that current security procedures at Creedmoor are in dire need of reform and the sense of security for the surrounding residents has been deeply shaken,” he said.

Unspecified changes have been implemented to guard against a repeat of Morillo’s escape. But Avella still is calling on the state to expand the investigation that opened following Morillo’s escape to include all security procedures.

Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) issued a statement saying he is “baffled” by the latest breach. He also said it was clear that the state has done little to address security concerns.

“And as a result my constituents and children attending neighboring schools are once again put in harm’s way,” he said.

Former Comptroller John Liu, who is challenging Avella this fall, also sent out a statement

“The time has come for full accountability,” he said.

A statement from the OMH said any escapes, while rare from secure facilities, are reported immediately to local law enforcement. All incidents also are reported to the Justice Center for the Protection of Persons with Special Needs.

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