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Queens Irish communities call for more cops

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

The number of blue uniforms patrolling the streets of Woodside and Sunnyside has dropped nearly 30 percent over the last two years and local community groups are pressing NYPD brass to increase neighborhood police presence.

Queens politicians and community leaders are rallying around a call for more cops after the Community Action Coalition, a non-profit neighborhood watchdog group, says the number of patrol officers at the local 108th Precinct has dropped from 192 to 136 over two years.

The call for increased police presence comes after as many as five Irish women were attacked and sexually assaulted by a livery cab driver in the Woodside neighborhood.

Young Irish residents concerned about the attacks said they would like to see more uniformed officers patrolling the streets near the bars where the women were picked up in taxis driven by their assailants.

A cab driver, Jamie Oliveira, has been arrested and charged with two of those sex attacks. He appeared in court this week for a pre-trial hearing. Detectives believe a second suspect in four other attacks Cesar Vicuna has fled to Colombia.

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Last week, as part of their push for more officers, the coalition held a rally in Sunnyside, where local business displayed blue ribbons in support of the push for more police.

Councilmember Walter McCaffrey, who represents the Woodside area, said that despite a hard-working force in the 108th precinct, many residents still felt the need for a stronger police presence.

"Commissioner Kerik has a responsibility to understand that neighborhoods are deserving of more cops," he said, referring to the new NYPD chief. "This shows the depth of concern in the community."

The NYPD bases precinct assignments on crime figures culled from the department’s Compstat briefings. The 108th Precinct is a low crime area compared to many other city neighborhoods.

According to the 108th Precinct, only two murders have occurred within the precinct’s boundaries this year to date. Other figures for major crimes include: 17 rapes, 331 robberies, 196 felony assaults, 632 burglaries, 453 grand larcenies and 625 auto larcenies. Those figures represent a 4.2 percent reduction in crime compared to last year. Rapes and felony assaults are slightly higher than last year.

"The number of officers, especially uniformed officers, in the precinct is determined by crime rates and the ability of officers to drive those crime rates down," a police department spokesman said.

"Many times plainclothes officers from narcotics and other units can address the needs of the community more than uniformed officers."

But activists say crime figures alone do not indicate the community’s policing needs.

"They tell us that crime is low. That is what the line is from One Police Plaza," said Diane Ballek, president of the local precinct community council.

"But many people, especially illegal immigrants, do not report crimes because one they are afraid of retaliation, and two they are afraid of deportation."

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