Oct. 29, By Christian Murray
Following a recent spike in burglaries and the assault of an 81-year old, several Sunnyside residents turned out at the 108 Police Precinct meeting Tuesday to ask plenty of questions.
Many residents asked for more cops in Sunnyside, claiming the neighborhood is no longer as safe. Others wanted to know whether more officers could be assigned to the area and whether it made sense to form a neighborhood watch group.
However, Captain Brian Hennessy, commanding officer of the 108 Precinct, started the meeting by providing a rundown of the latest crime figures.
He told the attendees that there had been 9 burglaries in Sunnyside in the past 28 day period—with five occurring on 40th Street (three via fire escapes and two through the front door) and another on 41st Street—between 43rd Avenue and Queens Blvd—via a window.
He said when the police stepped up its presence in the low 40s the burglaries moved farther east, with incidents taking place on 47th Street (btwn 39th and Skillman Avenue); 48th Street (btwn 43rd and Queens Blvd; and 51st Street (btwn 39th and Skillman Ave.). In these cases, the perpetrator(s) broke in through a front window, which included pushing in air conditioning units.
Despite the uptick, Hennessy stressed that “We are a very safe precinct. Bad things happen but they happen less frequently here than in other precincts.”
He said the incident involving the 81-year-old man “was a disgrace and a cowardly crime.” However, although crime statics are flat for the year, he said: “One crime is too many especially if it happens to you or someone you know.”
Hennessy said that there have been two murders so far this year, compared to four for the same period a year ago—and the number of rapes is flat year-over-year. He said that there have been 130 robberies so far this year (about the same compared to the period a year ago) of which there have been 73 arrests, with the precinct close to making another 52 more.
Residents, however, wanted to know why there aren’t more police in Sunnyside on a day-to-day basis. Furthermore, some wanted the crime statistic for Sunnyside as opposed to the precinct as a whole. Those numbers were not readily available on the night.
“You need to beef up patrols,” said William McCarthy, a Sunnyside resident. “We want to see more police on the streets especially on Queens Blvd,” he said. “While the neighborhood might be gentrifying, there seems to be more crime.”
Hennessy said the precinct is working with the resources it has. “Sure, we would like to have a cop on every corner.”
However, the precinct—which covers Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and parts of Maspeth—is stretched with four or five patrol cars to answer 911 calls at its disposal.
It also has what’s known as an “anti-crime unit” that focuses on burglaries and violent crimes. Then there are units that handle schools and resources needed for traffic accidents.
Residents asked Hennessy how the precinct could get more officers. Hennessy said it is a decision made downtown that is dependent on demographics, crime figures and the number of 911 calls.
Some of the veteran attendees urged the first-time meeting goers to make sure they call in every crime.
“If you call it is recorded and the powers that be know and that is how you get more cops in the precinct,” said Carol Terrano, a Maspeth civic leader who is also an active member of Community Board 2. “Getting annoyed does not help, you have to use the system.”
Meanwhile, a group of women, representing Sunnymoms, a Yahoo group with about 1,000 members, came to the meeting and also sought more officers.
The group had compiled a list among their vast membership of the crimes they were aware of based on news reports and incidents that they had collectively gathered. They talked about robberies, burglaries and stolen bicycles–to intoxicated men with shopping carts in Lou Lodati and Corp. Lance Corporal Thomas P. Noonan parks.
The women said after the meeting that they will report back to the group to discuss whether to form a Sunnyside Civic Association or a neighborhood watch program. Other ideas, they said, included a letter writing campaign to the Police Commissioner—backed with data—calling for more officers.