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Queens Chronicle

Area pols hold anti-crime rally in Astoria

Lawmakers address gropings, rape

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Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 12:11 pm, Wed Nov 23, 2011.

In an effort to crack down on the increasing number of criminal activities that have occurred in certain parts of Astoria, state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) and Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) called a rally on Wednesday, which also drew several community leaders and activists and a group of senior citizens who are concerned about the safety of the neighborhood.

Several groping incidents have been reported in the last several months, the most recent of which occurred at Broadway and 31st Street. Other cases range from an attempted rape on 21st Street to the inappropriate touching of a young girl by a man at the Steinway Library.

Gianaris announced he is introducing legislation expanding on Good Samaritan laws. The changes would free organizations from libel suits surrounding damages or injuries that may occur if they offer themselves as safe havens to individuals who feel victimized or at risk.

“We’re here to say we’re going to do whatever is in our power to stop it,” he said of the surge in crime.

Simotas assured those in attendance that “it is important for us to keep this neighborhood safe. It is important to give the law enforcers the tools to fight this.”

She announced that she is introducing a bill that would increase sentences for certain sex crimes as well as close what she called legal loopholes that allow sex offenders to avoid facing the most serious penalties.

“Astoria is one of the safest neighborhoods in the city,” Vallone pointed out. “We need more cops. We are going to take back our streets,” he promised.

He is hosting a meeting on Nov. 17 to discuss the need to bring back neighborhood watch programs as a way of engaging citizens and assisting the NYPD. The meeting, which will be held at Quontic Bank (31-05 Broadway) at 7 p.m., is open to the public.

One senior in attendance who grew up in Astoria admitted, “I’ve become a little more apprehensive. You never know. People are being mugged. People have to be alert and use their brains.” The woman, who did not wish to be identified, offered advice to fellow seniors. “Don’t be afraid to be involved,” she said.

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