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Front Page April 11, 2013  RSS feed

Busting Crime Myths At Midville Meeting

Be Smart In Keeping Criminals Out
story and photo by Robert Pozarycki

P.O. Lou Mathelier-Potter of the 104th Precinct Crime Prevention Unit offered proper safety tips at Monday’s Middle Village Property Owners/Residents Association meeting. 
(photo: Robert Pozarycki) P.O. Lou Mathelier-Potter of the 104th Precinct Crime Prevention Unit offered proper safety tips at Monday’s Middle Village Property Owners/Residents Association meeting. (photo: Robert Pozarycki) Safeguarding homes and personal property was the focus of the Middle Village Property Owners/Residents Association (MVPORA) meeting on Monday night, Apr. 8, at St. Margaret Parish Hall, as attendees received a crash course on crime prevention from a member of the 104th Precinct.

P.O. Lou Mathelier-Potter of the precinct’s Crime Prevention Unit sought to bust certain myths on ways to keep burglars out of homes and apartments and offered other tips to help residents avoid becoming victims of thieves.

One such myth involves the installation of signs claiming that a home is secured by a well-known alarm company such as ADT, Slomin’s or Brinks. Mathelier-Potter said this strategy can easily backfire on a property owner, as the sign could serve as an invitation to a burglar with knowledge of how to crack a certain company’s security systems.

If they wish to warn the public that their home is secured with an alarm system, Mathelier-Potter advised residents to instead post a generic alarm warning sign.

Police have also found that residents may install an alarm system but use it infrequently, or not at all, the officer stated. “If you have it and spend money for it, by all means, use it,” she advised residents.

Leaving the outdoor and indoor lights on in a home at all times is also an ineffective security method, the officer noted. Since burglars tend to watch their target locations in advance of committing their crime, they won’t be fooled if they know that the lights are on 24 hours a day.

Instead, Mathelier-Potter advised that homeowners use timers to automatically turn the lights on and off at specific times in order to give the appearance that someone is home.

Planting tall shrubs or trees in front of windows in order to hide them from those passing on the street can also serve to invite, rather than dissuade, criminals, the officer added. The tall plants can actually serve as hiding places for burglars seeking to get into a home or neighboring residences.

Mathelier-Potter urged homeowners to “be mindful of how high” they want plants on their front lawns to be and to make sure they are wellmaintained.

Finally, she advised, homeowners who know they will be away from their residences for extended periods of time should arrange to have a relative or neighbor pick up their mail or fliers every day. Allowing mail to accumulate in mail boxes or flyers to stack on the front steps can serve as a sign to burglars that no one is home.

For those still unsure about how to keep their homes or businesses safe, the NYPD offers free security surveys upon request. An officer will come to the location, evaluate various entryways and windows and offer recommendations on resolving any deficiencies that may be found.

“It costs you nothing but your time,” Mathelier-Potter said. Business or home owners in the 104th Precinct can request a security survey by calling the Crime Prevention Unit at 1-718-386-6223.

The officer also warned the resident about a scam being investigated in the Maspeth area, which was reported on in last week’s Times Newsweekly. The scam involves a man posing as a worker from a roofing company who approached an elderly resident and a local business and tried to gain entry into each location in order to perform work.

Mathelier-Potter told residents not to let any individual into their home if they did not previously request their appearance or expect them. Any suspicious individuals should be reported to 911 immediately.

She also warned residents living in apartment houses, condominiums or co-ops not to automatically buzz in every visitor who requests entry. In the past, crooks have been known to enter a building in this manner, then hide in a common area before committing a crime in an apartment.

“If someone comes and claims to be making a delivery, if you didn’t order it, don’t open the door,” Mathelier Potter said. “If you did, go down to the lobby and let them in.”

Regarding other potential crimes, the officer urged residents not to hide any valuables in their bedrooms, especially under mattresses. The precinct has received cases in the past regarding home care attendants who stole jewelry, cash and other items left unattended in bedrooms by the elderly residents whom they were serving.

Such valuables should be stored, if possible, in a safe deposit box at a local bank or kept secure in a hidden location within the home, Mathelier- Potter added.

The officer also advised drivers to make sure portable valuables such as GPS (global positioning systems) are removed from their vehicles upon exiting. Keeping such items in the view of anyone passing by could invite opportunistic thieves to break into a parked vehicle.

Salvatore Candela, MVPORA president, also offered some advice to those who have yet to file their tax returns on keeping their personal information secure.

Anyone who receives an email claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) should not open or respond to the message at all, Candela stated. “Trust me, the IRS will not contact you by email; they will send you a letter,” he said.

Candela also urged those who will be filing their taxes with an account- ant to know who their preparer is and to ask questions when requests are made for information such as a Social Security number or date of birth.

Still waiting for traffic study

The city Department of Transportation has yet to respond to a request by City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley for a traffic study focused on the intersection of Juniper Valley Road and 79th Place, near St. Margaret School, the lawmaker informed attendees.

In January, as previously reported, Crowley and DOT representatives came to the location to seek safety measures designed to protect children heading to and from school. Traffic control devices, such as an all-way stop, had been requested previously but ultimately rejected by the DOT.

The intersection of 79th Place and Juniper Valley Road is “oddlyshaped,” Crowley pointed out, noting that drivers heading north on 79th Place have to turn slightly to the left at Juniper Valley Road to continue on the roadway to Furmanville Avenue.

“They haven’t responded yet to our latest request,” the Council member said. “If they give us a ‘no’ response, we can use budget resources” to physically reconstruct the intersection, she added.

“Ultimately, we’d like to get a four-way stop there,” Crowley added.

Several residents, however, suggested that the DOT should institute a school safety zone similar to that at nearby P.S./I.S. 49, where a 20 mph speed limit is enforced and fines are doubled. Another resident added that an even “worse problem” is illegal turns made by drivers from Juniper Valley Road in the wrong-way of the one-way northbound 79th Place in order to reach the St. Margaret School parking lot.

Turning to other matters, a local resident asked Crowley about increases in the city property tax rates. The lawmaker said that the system is “archaic” and in need of reform, as owners of older properties in wealthier neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Manhattan pay a lower tax rate than owners of newer buildings in Middle Village and other parts of Queens.

Crowley offered to have representatives of the Department of Finance attend a future MVPORA meeting to explain how tax rates are determined. Candela indicated that he would seek to take up the Council member on the offer.

Other news

Craig Caruana introduced himself to residents as a potential challenger to Crowley for her seat in the 30th Council District in the November general election. A Republican who previously served as an assistant to the Secretary of the Navy, Caruana stated that his priorities, if elected, would be to improve constituent services and secure additional funding for the district.

Neil Giannelli, a representative of State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, noted the passage of “a balanced state budget” for the third consecutive year. Among the highlights in the budget he mentioned were an increase in funding for the EPIC senior prescription drug program and the reinstatement of health care benefits for retirees of the defunct New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation living in New York State.

One downside, Giannelli noted, was a $90 million reduction in funding for the state’s Office of People with Developmental Disabilities. The funding reduction proved twice as costly to the agency, he added, as it also resulted in the loss of a matching grant from the federal government.

The next Middle Village Property Owners/Residents Association meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday night, May 13, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Margaret Parish Hall, located at 66-05 79th Pl., south of Juniper Valley Road.