Oct. 1, 2015 By Christian Murray
While crime continues to fall throughout the Sunnyside/Woodside and Long Island district, the police warn that there have been several rental scams in the precinct in recent months.
Captain John Travaglia, the commanding officer of the 108 Police Precinct, said at the monthly precinct meeting Tuesday that there have been a number of bogus real estate operators who have been placing ads on Craigslist and then convincing apartment seekers to provide them with rent and two-month’s security deposit in advance—prior to seeing the apartment.
Come time to show the apartment, the bogus real estate agent cancels the appointment and is never to be seen again.
Several business owners looking for commercial space were scammed this way when a fake real estate operator who claimed to have an office near 48th Avenue and 47th Street would place ads and then convince budding entrepreneurs to fill out forms (with personal information) and pay the security deposit and rent in advance.
The victims would later go to the office of the supposed real estate agent to follow up, only to find an empty building.
In the most recent case, the victim wrote out two checks totaling more than $5,000 for a retail space.
This scenario played out several times—concerning the supposed broker using the 47th Street address—between July 1 and Sept 21, according to police.
There have been similar cases involving apartments this summer; however, a police spokesman did not want to discuss those cases since they are being investigated.
Travaglia said that consumers should only use bona fide real estate agents who have an office and a license number. “I can’t stress it enough…and you shouldn’t be paying them in advance.”
“If something smells funny it is funny,” Travaglia said.
These cases come at a time when the number of reported crimes in the precinct continues to decline markedly.
For the year through Sept. 27, the number of reported crimes is down 20 percent, compared to the same period in 2014. The number of reported murders, robberies, felony assaults, burglaries and grand larcenies are down significantly.
Burglaries, which have in the past been a problem for the precinct, are down 22 percent year-to-date.
The only increase is in the number or reported rapes, which have gone up from 11 at this point last year to 13. However, in all these cases, the victim had known the alleged perpetrator before the time of the incident.
Some residents at the meeting complained about criminal activity that is supposedly taking place at Windmuller Park.
One man claimed that there are homeless people defecating in the park, park goers having sex near the pool and groups of teenagers smoking dope and intimidating people.
He urged Travaglia to step up the police presence there.
Travaglia said that he has a unit that goes to Windmuller Park every day but that unit covers other sections of the precinct as well. He said that he only had a limited number of officers.
One woman urged Travaglia to deploy a unit of auxiliary police officers there, which she said he had promised months ago.
Travaglia said the auxiliary officers were still working on another matter at the moment and could not be deployed there at this time.
The woman said that she would ask Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer to see if more police resources could be directed toward park enforcement.
Reach reporter Christian Murray at [email protected]