Feb. 1, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
The Community Council for the 112th Precinct in Forest Hills and Rego Park held a virtual meeting with the NYPD last month where residents were updated on local crime and were advised to be vigilant about scammers seeking to solicit money.
The monthly meeting — which aims to bring residents and the police together to help combat crime — took place on Jan. 18 with around 75 people participating. Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz and Deputy Inspector Joseph Cappelmann, the 112th Precinct Commanding Officer, were among those present.
Katz said that getting illegal guns off the streets is a priority for her office and she detailed various ways in which fraudsters are preying on innocent victims to defraud them out of money.
Cappelmann discussed various incidents that have taken place in the precinct in recent weeks – including burglaries, robberies and auto theft – while he also answered questions attendees had toward the end of the session.
The meeting lasted about an hour and was hosted by Heidi Chain, the chairperson of the community council. Community councils are volunteer groups, made up of local residents who work with their respective NYPD precincts to combat crime and address neighborhood issues.
Katz was first to speak at the meeting and she began by reaffirming her commitment to ridding the streets of illegal guns.
She said that many illegal guns are purchased by criminals in southern states such as Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina, and then smuggled into New York City, a process route known as the “iron pipeline.”
“If you bring them up through the ‘iron pipeline’ the police will find you and I will prosecute you,” Katz said.
She also advised residents to be cautious against scams and credit card fraud and to be careful when sending money online. She said scammers often target the elderly and pretend to be their grandchildren who are in need of quick cash transfers.
She said some scammers phone their victims to get additional information from them — which they then use against them. For example, fraudsters might seek to find out the name of one’s spouse or a family member’s name.
They may also try to take a mortgage out on a victim’s house with the information, she said.
“I am saying trust but verify,” Katz said. “It’s not like the people scamming you don’t know who you are, they have already researched you, they have probably [phone] called your house once or twice,” Katz said.
She said that some scammers have been known to profess they work for her office too, and then request money to stop a fake investigation.
“Don’t fall for it, don’t send them money, we will never ask you for money,” Katz said.
Katz said that her office recently recouped $4,000 for people who had placed down payments on apartments that don’t exist. The fraudster in those cases was apprehended and recently pled guilty to 18 crimes, she said.
“But more importantly we got the money back for people,” Katz said.
112th Precinct Crime
Cappelmann then spoke to attendees and said that 2022 was a difficult year for the city in terms of crime.
He then gave a rundown of crime in the precinct, which is flat compared to last year.
As of Jan. 29, there were 66 major crimes reported for the year to date in the precinct—the same number as what was reported for that period in 2022, according to the latest NYPD data.
Cappelmann said that grand larceny auto, however, is a big problem throughout the precinct, although it is also a city-wide problem. He said that oftentimes criminals are able to steal vehicles because keys have been left in the ignition.
He also said theft from mailboxes and apartment buildings is also a big concern and that the thefts are primarily being carried out overnight.
He said that prior to the Jan. 18 meeting, there were four such incidents in a four-week period and one suspect has now been arrested in relation to those cases.
In terms of burglaries, Cappelmann said that those crimes are taking place mainly between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. He said that no particular area in the precinct is being hit.
He said the thieves are looking for empty and vacant homes, and he reminded residents of the precautions they can take.
“Thieves are looking for houses that are not well-lit and have no car in the driveway,” Cappelmann said. He also recommended residents activate their alarms, lock all doors and windows, and to leave a light on.
Cappelmann also suggested residents purchase home surveillance cameras as they are relatively inexpensive.
He said there has also been an uptick in retail theft too since the onset of the pandemic, with shops and pharmacies being targeted.
Next, Cappelmann addressed subway crime and said that it had increased throughout the city in 2022, although the mayor is tackling the issue, he said.
For instance, the 112th Precinct now deploys officers daily to a fixed post at the Forest Hills–71st Avenue station, Cappelmann said. Police are on duty there from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. every day and officers generally stay stationed on the platforms, he said.
Additionally, Cappelmann said that extra officers are deployed to the other subway stops in the precinct during the morning and evening rush hours.
“We’ve dedicated a lot of resources to transit, to try and get people back on the subways,” Cappelmann said.
“I think when you see more people on the subway crime is going to reduce… criminals are less emboldened when more people are around.”
Cappelmann said that despite mentioning several crime incidents, the precinct had a number of success stories in terms of apprehending suspects.
For instance, on Dec. 20, police arrested three youths – after a foot chase — who were attempting to steal a Hyundai.
The youths – who are from the Bronx and Upper Manhattan — were taking part in a Tik Tok challenge whereby participants attempt to steal Hyundais and Kias, Cappelmann said.
Meanwhile, on Jan. 17, police arrested a suspect wanted for multiple burglaries. Cops saw the suspect on the street in possession of a hammer and then picked him up. Cappelmann said the suspect was working on breaking into other establishments when he was arrested.
Cappelmann said that there were two separate, and “very very troubling robberies” after 2 a.m. in the precinct in early January where a man stopped two women walking home.
Cappelmann did not go into detail about the incidents but said that detectives were able to trace the assailant afterward to a house in the 103rd Precinct using video footage.
“We apprehended him in possession of a large knife and a taser… and he was on a very distinct orange e-bike,” Cappelmann said. “At this point, he is being remanded to the custody of the corrections department pending his trial.”
“So really great work [by his team] and I can assure you that officers here at the 112th are working really hard under very difficult circumstances.”
Questions and Answers
The final portion of the meeting was a question-and-answer session where pre-submitted questions were put to Cappelmann.
Residents voiced concerns about noise emanating from apartments and Cappelmann said the police find the issue very challenging to resolve, although they do their best to respond in a timely manner.
Another resident asked if it is illegal to ride standup e-scooters on the sidewalk, saying that he had been struck twice by the vehicles on 63rd Drive.
In response, Cappelmann said the vehicles are not permitted to be used on the sidewalk. He said police will consider conducting outreach to bike shop owners as a means of informing riders about where they can ride their vehicles.
Elsewhere, a resident said a homeless individual is repeatedly drinking alcohol on Continental Avenue and discarding empty bottles on the sidewalk.
Cappelmann said that this individual should not be engaging in that type of behavior and has been arrested numerous times.
“It’s something that we are very well aware of, and my field training officers will be out there to make sure that quality of life issues are enforced and nobody’s drinking or littering in the street.”
Meanwhile, Chain said that February’s community council meeting will be held virtually once again, while the gatherings will return to an in-person format in March.