Petty crimes committed locally have unfortunately almost become accepted as the norm now, as residents are forced to keep a keen eye out for suspicious behavior right here in our neighborhoods. This past Thursday evening, I was fortunate to join a friend of the community, Deputy Inspector Kevin Chan, Commanding Officer of the 107th Precinct, for an informative Zoom call hosted by the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and its mara d’asra Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld.

Rabbi Schonfeld thanked the NYPD for staging a vehicle early each morning at roughly 5:30 a.m. near his shul. The area sees a high traffic volume, with congregants attending either the Young Israel, Kehilas Torah Temima, or the Agudath Israel of KGH, which all host early morning minyanim.

The Deputy Inspector mentioned the recent two a.m. burglary of a local shul near the intersection of 147th Street and 73rd Avenue in Kew Gardens Hills, when a pushke filled with money was taken. “People called and we got him outside the synagogue,” said Chan. “You are the eyes and ears of the community. Please reach out as soon as possible to report a crime or robbery.” In this case, the individual was arrested for breaking in, not for stealing the money.

It was the bravery of neighbors and passersby who jumped into action that helped bring this incident to a satisfactory resolution. The Commanding Officer also pointed to video surveillance evidence as proof of the robbery that was used to piece the case together.

Vehicular theft was another big item on Chan’s list. While it may seem obvious not to leave valuables in a car, many residents continue to have cars broken into for simple negligence. “Do not leave wallets, valuables, or car keys inside a vehicle. People will break the windows or find other ways to damage a vehicle to gain entry for a few items,” said the Deputy Inspector. “Grand theft auto is also a major issue. One should never leave a vehicle unattended to run a quick errand or grab a child from daycare.” Chan also noted that drivers think if they turn the vehicle off but leave the keys in the car that it is sufficient for a few moments. Unfortunately, there are incidents where cars have been stolen in such a manner.

It was announced that the officers who patrol overnight are on the lookout for these occurrences and are aware of known bandits, especially around Electchester. Motorcycle theft is just as much an issue. Owners of these vehicles, including scooters and the like, are advised to place them in a garage and not chained to a light post; the robbers will bring a grinder to steal the bike. There is also an issue of riders being found to be using bikes stolen from other locales.

Chan also reported on the rise in theft of catalytic converters, specifically those for 2010 Toyotas and Hondas. “At the police department, we can mark these car parts that if they are later sold to a chop shop, they can still be recovered.”

Another reoccurring theme in the area of 153rd Street and 73rd Avenue has been with teenagers threatening individuals. In one such attack, a teenager frightened and spat on someone. While there was no physical harm or assault, we must remain cautious of individuals who seem to be on drugs and report all crimes.

In a more severe incident, on Tuesday night, October 5, a Lander College for Men student was shopping at the Walgreens on Kissena Boulevard and 73rd Avenue when he was robbed of his cell phone. The perpetrator ran off. However, the culprit returned to the location and was successfully identified by a store employee. No criminal charges were levied as the wrongdoer was just 13 years old. He will see time in family court.

Also in attendance on the call were our NCOs (Neighborhood Coordination Officers) Police Officer Matthew Zakian (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 929-256-0912) and Police Officer Nicholas Afanasewicz (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 917-742-1946). They often walk along Main Street and other busy areas in the sector to meet neighbors and inform them of regulations and updates. In addition to asking the public to reach out to them with concerns, they announced that their next Build the Block meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 17, at 7 p.m. at the John Bowne High School (63-25 Main Street).

The NCOs fielded audience questions on the illegal tractor-trailers parking along Vleigh Place and store break-ins. The officers explained that they are aware of the trailers but have found that the owners prefer to get a ticket than pay for overnight parking, as it is cheaper to take the fine. “We have tried to get them towed, but they require a specific tow truck, and the City has just one in service. When something happens in Midtown, we get put on the back burner,” explained the NCOs. Regarding commercial retailers getting robbed, including liquor stores, bakeries, and health supply shops, the officers said that it is a citywide issue, not specific to our area, and that the precinct has a good idea of the culprits. The officers pointed to baby products, formula, diapers, health products, and beauty accessories, as well as medicines, as common theft items that can easily be flipped for cash at a bodega or sold to drug dealers. To this end, there was discussion on making sure security systems are in use and that alarms are functioning, as they often help to arrest perpetrators. “Just seeing a camera is often a deterrent to a would-be burglar to back off,” said Zakian. “We don’t mind coming out if there is a false alarm.” The NCOs also advised residents to reach out to Officer John Hoffmann (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) to set up a crime prevention survey and improve security at one’s residence.

Citizens were also made aware that since the sun now goes up earlier, we must all be more cautious when crossing the street and driving in darkness. Advice was given to don bright clothes to avoid getting hit by vehicles. The officers also advised the public to avoid shady people in the vicinity of 147th Street and 79th Avenue as there is an active heroin den in that area that is in the process of getting eradicated but remains an issue due to the court system. “It is frustrating at times, but at the end of the day it comes down to Election Day, when one can make his or her voice heard and vote for an individual who has your interests at heart,” said the NCOs. “If you want change, then be part of the change.”

Additionally, the officers noted that the vaccine mandate has not taken effect at the police department and that the precinct continues to test the unvaccinated. The officers thanked the community for the continued support and noted that when it appears that the NYPD is not getting the support of the justice system, they still stay out doing their job to keep the neighborhood safe. “When you guys hurt in the community, we do as well. We roll with the punches and get trained about new rules on a daily basis,” said Officer Zakian.

On a separate note, there was a shoplifting incident inside of Haim’s International. In that case, Queens Borough Safety Patrol-Shmira was called, and the criminal was followed to the front of Pita Hot, where police soon made the arrest. It is cases like this that require us to always remain on the lookout for oddities.

 By Shabsie Saphirstein