Police: Crime down in the 104th

Overall crime is down in Ridgewood, with police making headway on the area’s biggest problem – prostitution – Captain Michael Cody of the 104th Precinct told attendees at a Citizens for a Better Ridgewood meeting on the evening of Monday, February 27.
“One of the major complaints I got when I first got to the precinct was the prostitution problem,” Cody said at the meeting, which was held at the Saint Aloysius Parish Hall on Onderdonk Avenue.
The precinct, which monitors Ridgewood, Maspeth, Glendale and Middle Village, has conducted three undercover operations so far, in which officers are sent out to catch people who patronize prostitutes.
In the three operations, officers made 27 arrests and seized four stolen vehicles.
Cody said he went with a team on the prior Friday night.
“We did a great job, right out in the rain,” he said. “We got nine arrests.”
A representative from the Queens District Attorney’s office attended the meeting, along with Councilwoman Diana Reyna, and said Queens is surpassing its fellow boroughs in safety.
For example, Queens had 22 percent of the city’s total violent felonies in 2011, with a violent felon conviction rate of 7.7 percent.
In addition, Queens has the highest conviction rate for domestic violence in the entire city, the representative said.
Cody said the 104th Precinct had 27 reported crimes in the last month, up 42 percent from the 19 in the same month in 2011. But, he said, the snowstorms in the winter of 2011 helped keep crime down.
The precinct is down in grand larcenies and stolen vehicles, Cody said. It is also down five percent in felony assaults and 7.8 percent in burglaries.
He said most felony assaults reported to his precinct jurisdiction are domestic. One was in a bar.
Currently, the biggest complaint the precinct receives involves robberies.
There were 15 robberies in the last month, Cody said, which could be because “the weather’s a lot warmer this year, there’s a lot more people out on the street than last year.”
He added, “one of the major crimes we get is robberies of electronic devices.”
For iPhone users, Cody recommended downloading the iCloud application, which works like a global positioning system and locates missing phones, iPads and iPods.
Burglaries are also an issue, he said, particularly in the Ridgewood area. One occurred Monday morning, at about 11 a.m., when two men invaded a home in the vicinity of 58th Road and 64th Street and attempted to rob it.
However, the occupants of the apartment walked in on the burglars, who then ran off.
“One resident called 911 while the other individual kept the bad guys in sight,” Cody said, and praised the residents for helping to catch the perpetrators and their getaway driver.
“We’re looking into that to see if it can tie into other burglaries in the area,” he said.
A piece of good news Cody delivered at the meeting is the installation of four cameras near the Ridgewood Savings Bank on Cypress Avenue.
“It’s almost like putting another police officer out on the street,” Cody said of the security cameras. “It’s a very good multiplier of our resources.”
Cody plans to meet in the future with local representatives about putting up more cameras, he said.

Attempted rape in Ridgewood

The Queens Special Victims unit is searching for an individual wanted for an attempted rape that occurred on Sunday, February 19, in the vicinity of Saint Felix and Cypress avenues.
According to a report from the 104th Precinct, at about 10:30 p.m., a 25-year-old woman was grabbed from behind and pushed to the ground by the suspect, who attempted to rape her. When the victim screamed for help, the perpetrator ran off with her purse.
The suspect is described as a black male, between 25 and 35, roughly six feet tall and 210 pounds. He has short black hair and was wearing a gray jacket, according to police.
At a Citizen’s for a Better Ridgewood meeting on Monday, February 27, Captain Michael Cody of the 104th Precinct said the investigation is ongoing, but no new information has surfaced since the incident.
“There fortunately have been no further incidents,” he added.
Police ask that anyone with information about the suspect call 800-577-TIPS. Tipsters can also log into NYPDcrimestoppers.com or text TIP577 to 274637 (CRIMES).

Lawmakers back bill to protect houses of worship from vandalism

Assemblyman Rory Lancman has introduced a piece of legislation that would protect houses of worship from vandalism and theft. And assemblymen Charles Lavine, Michael Simanowitz, and State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky are backing it.
The legislation is a direct response to the recent round of incidents aimed at houses of worship across the five boroughs, including the recent mosque bombing in Jamaica.
On Monday, the elected officials stood with Rabbi Nahum Kaziyev and some members of Congregation Ohr Natan in Rego Park – which was subject to anti-Semitic vandalism last November – to express their support of a bill that would increase penalties on those convicted of such crimes.
“We want to make sure that our police and court system are taking those acts of vandalism and theft as seriously as possible, and hopefully deter anybody that is cowardly and lowly enough to steal from or vandalize a house of worship from doing so,” Lancman said.
The legislation would increase the penalty for theft or the intentional damage to a scroll, vessel or any other item used in connection with religious worship in any house of worship to a maximum of seven years in prison from four.
It would classify those kinds of crimes as third-degree grand larceny and second-degree criminal mischief, both Class D Felonies. Currently, those charges would only apply in cases where items worth more than $3,000 have been stolen, or where items have sustained more than $1,500 in damages.
The bill also aims to increase the penalty for theft of any scroll, religious vessel or any other item valued at more than $250 and used in connection with religious worship in any house of worship.
Currently the penalty carries a maximum of seven years in prison by classifying those types of crimes as second-degree grand larceny, which is a Class C felony. If the bill is passed, the maximum years in prison would be 15.
The bill also aims to increase the penalty for any intentional damage to house of worship-owned property to a maximum of four years in prison from one year, by making it a Class E felony. Currently, this penalty applies only where the damage is worth more than $250.
“A crime of hate against one person or one synagogue defiles everybody,” said Stavisky, who is co-sponsoring the bill in the State Seante. “It is a crime against everybody regardless of religion, regardless of nationality.”
Lavine noted that the bill does not require that anyone caught committing vandalism or stealing from a house of worship have any specific intent to commit a hate crime.
According to the law, hate crimes requires proof of a hateful intent. Lancman’s legislation would not require that proof. A suspect would be prosecuted under the law regardless of whether they were motivated by hatred, bigotry or something else.
The bill is drawing up hope for houses of worship who were hit with vandalism or theft, such as Congregation Ohr Natan.
In November, Congregation Ohr Natan was vandalized with anti-Semitic messages, threatening the community of Bukharian Jews who worship at the temple. Rabbi Kaziyev recalled the day vividly.
“I remember the Sunday morning when we came here for services and the members of our center alerted me to the disgusting note we had in big letters on our walls,” he said of a graffiti message that read, “We will never be friends.”
“It’s very hard for something like this to happen in 2011, it’s not easy,” he added. “Our congregation was very upset; We have programs from morning to evening here, we have kids and seniors, and people were concerned.”
Kaziyev said the congregation has increased security around the building since the incident. They now have eight security cameras inside and outside. The suspect has not yet been found.
“We are now more alert,” he said. “Hopefully it was just a one-time incident that won’t repeat itself.”
In addition to the incident at Congregation Ohr Natan, a mosque on the Van Wyck Expressway was fire bombed at the beginning of 2012. In 2008, The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Church in Ozone Park had its 9/11 memorial lights smashed on church grounds, nd the Avenue Z Jewish Center in Sheepshead Bay had money stolen from its donation box in 2010.
“These crimes are more than the measure of the value of the item that have been stolen; they literally instill fear in the community that uses those houses of worship and for that reason, we think it’s justified to increase the penalties,” Lancman said.

Airport workers demand higher wages

Workers from airports around the city are calling on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to require employment agencies it contracts with to pay higher wages.
A coalition of Southeastern Queens clergy members, community residents and civic organizations held a press conference at the Greater Refuge Church of Christ on Sutter Avenue in Jamaica on Friday, February 24, demanding the Port Authority take more of an interest in developing the communities near LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark airports.
The coalition referred to a report compiled by New York University’s Women of Color Policy Institute which found that more than 14,000 service passenger contract workers earn less than those employed directly by the Port Authority.
Service passenger contract workers, who are located in the front of airports and include baggage handlers and check point operators, make an average of $16,000 a year, according to the coalition.
However, speakers at the conference said the Port Authority is receptive to their concerns. In a statement, Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said he is sympathetic to the issues raised by the coalition and in the NYU study.
Regina Gilbert, an employee at JFK Airport, said at the conference that she works for $7.25 an hour, the current minimum wage.
“I’m one of the first persons you meet after you drop off your bags, which is an important service to passengers,” Gilbert said. “We are fighting for better wages, better benefits. We want to look just like everybody else.”
Contract employees are also pushing for an opportunity to unionize. Coalition members said the workers are receiving support from the 32BJ Service Employees International Union.
Speakers said that if contracted airport workers made more money, it would translate into economic development for their communities. Higher wages and health care would equal less homelessness, addiction and illness, they said.
Councilman James Sanders Jr. also attended the conference, where he spoke to the Port Authority directly, referring to it as “mister.”
“Mr. Port Authority, I know that you would not want your daughters working for $16,000 a year,” he said. “I know that you would have the biggest fit if they came in and reduced your salary to $16,000 a year.”
He called on the Port Authority to hold meetings to end “low-bid contracting,” which allows contractors to pay low wages, with the involvement of the affected workers and their communities.
But, “let’s not let this be a long meeting, because we understand that justice delayed is justice denied,” Sanders said. “Let’s not have to explain that $16,000 a year is not enough to live on.”
In a statement, Foye said he comes from a union family and is directing Port Authority staff to review the NYU report’s findings. He added that he recently met with members of SEIU 32BJ.
“While the workers mentioned in the report are not Port Authority employees, I am sympathetic to the concerns raised in this report about the employees of contractors hired by the airlines and other tenants at our metropolitan area airports,” Foye said. “I will seek recommendations on how we can work with our aviation partners on ways to improve the current situation.”

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