Robbery Suspect’s Arrest
By Thomas Cogan
Three Cop of the Month awards, all of them related to one case, were conferred at the June meeting of the 112th Police Precinct Community Council in Forest Hills. Precinct Commander Captain John Philbin presented Cop of the Month awards to Sergeant Thomas Sulz and Officers John Spaccaforno and Greg Dahrenburg for their apprehension of a perpetrator the commander described as "a one-woman crime wave." For several days before Wednesday, May 26, the precinct had suffered a pickpocket and grand larceny problem. On that day, a customer of the Banana Republic on Austin Street filed a complaint that her wallet had been taken. The store’s security videotape showed the theft being committed. Not long afterward, a check at the Gap showed that the victim’s credit cards were being used. A bank traced the progress of the card and its user to the Leslie’s store and then to a bagel shop, where the three officers made the arrest. When arrested, the woman was holding not only the wallet and cards but also a cell phone that had been reported stolen. The police knew the suspect to have several pickpocket associates. She was later freed on bail, but Philbin observed that reports of pickpocketing and illegal credit card purchases were off noticeably, indicating that she and her friends have vacated the area.
Guest speaker Melinda Katz, City Councilmember from Forest Hills, was pressed for time, as this is the season for school graduations and she was pledged to attend a ceremony later that evening. She noted that Mayor Michael Bloomberg had made further cuts in the budget, but at the same time had proposed a $400 rebate to the city’s homeowners as a conciliatory measure for an 18.5 percent property tax increase in 2002-03. But a rebate didn’t make sense to her (though the City Council later approved it), considering that cuts were being made everywhere else. Also, she expressed the hope, a vain one as it turned out, that the Rent Guidelines Board would not grant increases to landlords of rent-stabilized apartments; she found such increases "inappropriate." When the topic of anti-noise legislation was raised, she confessed to being soft on Mister Softee, which drew groans from some. She got a better reception with her announcement that she had secured funds for the 112th Precinct, which would allow the purchase of a surveillance vehicle, repairs to the elevator and installation of some windows. As chair of the council Land Use Committee, she was able to report about committee hearings on the building of medical facilities and houses of worship in residential areas.
Philbin reported that calls to precinct headquarters regarding suspicious characters seem to have brought the burglary rate down in the neighborhood. He asked for a similar effort regarding graffiti perpetrators. When asked why many of the officers in his command have transferred to other assignments within the Police Department, Philbin said that while other commanders are strongly intent on retaining personnel, he believes in encouraging those aspiring to higher positions to pursue promotions, even if it means losing them. He said that at present, he has 117 officers within the command.
The term of the community council’s board of directors was expiring, so new elections were held, and two of the board’s members drew opponents. The council board of directors would normally succeed itself; thus, Heidi Harrison Chain would again be president, Alan Hackman first vice president, Gail Gordon second vice president, Tod Reisman treasurer, Rene Lobo secretary, Phyllis Steinberg assistant secretary and Karen Mongiello sergeant-at-arms. This year, however, Lobo and Steinberg were challenged: the former by Barbara Glick, the latter by James Jagiello. After all four candidates advertised themselves before the audience, those qualified to vote did, and Lobo and Steinberg were returned to office with the others.
Chain announced that the council’s essay contest among local schoolchildren, which had as its topic tolerance, drew 50 entrants, The awards ceremony was to be held the following week, but because she would be unable to attend that meeting, Alison Hanover, a 10-year-old student at St. Margaret’s School, was presented with the second-place award.