In the wake of a pattern of burglaries and robberies in parts of southern Queens, the 106th Precinct commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Thomas Pascale, believes it is important to again offer tips to residents on protecting themselves and their property.
Pascale hosted a crime prevention seminar on Feb. 20 at the precinct in Ozone Park in conjunction with Capt. Henry Sautner, commanding officer of the 102nd Precinct, and officers from the borough’s crime prevention unit.
Although NYPD crime statistics for the 106th Precinct showed that burglaries have remained fairly steady and the number of robberies and auto thefts have dropped so far this year compared to this time last last year, Pascale acknowledged at a Community Board 10 meeting last month that burglaries have been an ongoing issue in South Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park and more recently in parts of Howard Beach. Statistics also show grand larcenies are up this year.
In Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park, break-ins have been an issue at Hindu households, where robbers know gold, cash and jewelry are kept, many of them religious items.
“Take steps to protect your assets,” said Pascale who urged the homeowners to rent a bank safety deposit box to put their valuables in, instead of keeping them in their home, and deposit the cash in a bank account. He also suggested that they may want to put good safes in their homes, bolted to the floor.
Pascale said he was also concerned with people stealing iPhones, iPads and related products, noting that thefts of Apple products represent about 20 to 30 percent of the precinct’s reported thefts. He asked residents to be discrete when they use smartphones, especially when they get off a train.
“Be aware of your surroundings,” he said.
Pascale also asked the audience members to record the serial numbers of the electronics they purchase and list them with the police so that if a device is stolen and recovered officers can contact the owner. He also discussed the steps police take to prevent burglaries in the community.
Precinct burglary reports are analyzed, patterns are developed and resources are allocated to the affected areas, he explained.
“Burglaries are a very, very serious crime,” said Pascale, who added that he goes to as many burglarized homes as he can.
He said precinct officers conduct a very thorough investigation when they respond to a burglary, including how the perpetrator entered and exited the home, interviews with neighbors and a detailed description of the property that was stolen. He added that the Polic Department’s evidence collection team is dispatched to each scene and takes fingerprint and DNA evidence.
Discussing the burglaries in the community, Pascale said the perpetrators are believed to be driving around in late-model rental cars, such as Nissan Altimas and Chevy Impalas. He added that usually three individuals ride in each car. Two individuals will get out of the car on a residential block and knock on the front doors of homes while the third at a given house acts as the lookout. If no one answers they will then go around to the back and kick in the back door.
Pascale urged residents to look out for their neighbors and call 911 if they see suspiciously acting individuals who appear to be aimlessly walking around the neighborhood or late model vehicles driving slowly down the street with the occupants looking at homes on the block.
“The No. 1 burglary deterrent is a dog,” said Sergeant Ryan Kenny of the NYPD Queens South crime prevention unit, who has two German Shepherds himself. He warned the audience to beware of individuals who knock on their door offering a free vacuum cleaning of their home or a free chimney inspection.
“These people are con artists,” said Kenny.
He added that a homeowner may unintentionally give out information to the individual like, “Come back tomorrow at 7 p.m., we all work during the day,” letting the individual know that nobody is home during the day.
One of the ways burglars enter homes is to push in air conditioners, Crime Prevention Officer Robert Semler told the audience, advising residents to make sure that their air conditioners are secured.
“Don’t leave a ladder outside your home to make it easy for a burglar to climb in,” he warned, adding that mail accumulating in the mailbox is sign to burglars that residents are not home.
“Leave a light on, turn on the TV or radio when you leave your house,” he also suggested.
Kenny informed residents that police will perform free of charge a home security survey. Community residents can call the 106th Precinct Community Affairs Unit at (718)-845-2228 or the crime prevention unit at (718)-845-2223 to arrange for the survey.