Sabrina Vitucci’s frustration about recent burglaries in Howard Beach was evident as she told the audience of nearly 200 people at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Howard Beach/Lindenwood Civic Association at St. Helen School that her neighbor’s house in the vicinity of 84th Street and 164th Avenue was burglarized Monday and the perpetrators are still at large.
“Detectives were at my home three times,” she said, adding that they wanted to review her surveillance video of the alleged perpetrators breaking into her neighbor’s home.
She alleged that five homes in the last six weeks have been broken into in the daytime in the community, a rumor that has spread quickly through social media and word of mouth and created a sense of concern and fear in the normally quiet neighborhood.
Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff, commanding officer of the 106th Precinct, acknowledged two recent home burglaries in the area, one on Saturday and one on Monday. One resident told Schiff that the two burglaries are “two too many.”
Vitucci told Schiff and Patrol Borough Queens South commander Assistant Chief David Barrere another neighbor woke up to find two intruders standing over him.
Schiff said that what concerns him is that not all the alleged burglaries and robberies have been reported to the police.
“If we don’t know about it we can’t combat it,” he said.
The commanding officer also told the audience that there have been three recent robberies in Howard Beach. Schiff said that in one of the robberies the victim tried to stop the perpetrator, who was attempting to break into the victim’s car. A witness saw what was going on and called 911. The police responded and arrested the alleged perpetrator.
Another robbery occurred on Linden Boulevard in Lindenwood. He said that in that incident two males and one female accosted another female.
The inspector said plainclothes officers have been patrolling the community. However, many residents asked for uniformed officers in marked police cars to also patrol the neighborhood. Residents also asked Schiff for a much quicker response time — than the current 20 minutes — to home burglar alarms.
The inspector also urged residents to report suspicious activity or individuals to 911. Many residents said they were not so much worried about stolen personal items, but were concerned about seniors living in their homes who could be harmed in the course of a home invasion.
“There would not be a crowd of this size if there wasn’t a sizable issue in this area,” said Joann Ariola, president of the civic. “It’s certainly an issue that is escalating and although there haven’t been any fatalities, if they’re coming in your home you cannot trust what they are capable of.”
“I hear what everyone is saying, I can feel the passions in this room, I see you love the community, we’re going to help you,” Barrere told the audience.
Schiff suggested that to keep up on what is going on in the precinct community residents may want to sign up for the 106th Precinct’s newsletter by emailing a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the burglary and robbery problem in the community, scammers appear to be preying on senior citizens. One resident related a recent scam perpetrated on a senior citizen living in the vicinity of 158th Avenue and 90th Street. She said the alleged scammers told the victim he needed roof work done and then the perpetrator drove the victim to the Queens County Savings Bank on Cross Bay Boulevard, where he withdrew cash to pay the perpetrator. The responding officers allegedly were undecided if a crime had taken place.
Barrere added that it is a con game which is being investigated.
Camille Ruggiero-Lyons, the bank’s manager, said that since this was an odd transaction for the senior, the teller did ask the victim if everything was alright. The senior told the teller that she needed the money to fix his roof.
“There’s only so much we can do at the bank,” Ruggiero-Lyons said.
Complaints were also made at the meeting about individuals collecting bottles from the sides and backyards of residents’ homes. Schiff said that these individuals are trespassing and the homeowner should call 911. He also suggested that the shopping carts they are wheeling around may not have been legally obtained and the individual would be subject to arrest if police determine that one was taken from a store and the storeowner requests that the individual be prosecuted.