2009-05-06 / Features

108th Precinct Cops Honored For Halting Gunplay In March

BY THOMAS COGAN

Three officers were honored as Cops of the Month at the April meeting of the 108th Police Precinct Community Council. Commander Deputy Inspector Thomas Kavanagh had a generally positive 28-day crime report that did not include the murder of a woman on 41st Street who worked for the Police Department. At question time, concern was expressed about having one's car towed from a commercial parking lot, and the inevitable graffiti discussion arose because of a graffiti-removal excursion planned for the following Saturday in Sunnyside. There was another complaint about a noisy bar-restaurant and also an inquiry about the vendor under the Bliss Street station on the elevated No 7. line.

Joseph Kohait, Keith Mathis and Matthew McGovern were named Cops of the Month, the latter two of whom were present to accept their plaques. They were honored for responding to an incident occurring in the far south end of the precinct, at 54th Drive and 44th Street, on Saturday, March 21. While on patrol, they heard gunshots and made a canvass of the area until they found three men standing outside a parked car. The odor of gunpowder and the presence of spent shells on the ground led them to search the men and discover live rounds. A final search revealed a .40 caliber gun, fully loaded. The men admitted they had been drinking and were in a partying mood, perhaps in celebration of the vernal equinox; so they took to firing the gun in the air. Since it was the only gun found, they evidently had it reloaded and ready to fire again. They were promptly brought in.

Kavanagh dismissed any discussion of the 41st Street murder by saying Police Department policy forbade any commentary as the investigation proceeds, nor did he have anything to say about a body reportedly pulled from the East River. His 28-day crime report found good news in the small number of robberies; there were six, which he found "fantastic". Grand larceny and burglaries were down, the former from 45 to 41, the latter from 29 to 21. Grand larceny auto was on the rise, though, to 23 from 18. The commander observed that several of the stolen cars were old ones—he cited a Ford Ranger—dispelling the notion that at least one's old heap is safe from theft. Asked if he believed sagging economic conditions were encouraging car theft, he said only that he feared such robberies would be on the increase.

The tow truck question was about legality. The inquirer spoke of persons he has known who have parked in lots belonging to commercial places, gone into those places and then perhaps briefly left the establishment for some reason, only to find on returning to the lot that they were being towed. When that happens, there is, of course, a charge to get one's car back, a charge that is increased if the car is taken away to an impoundment lot. Kavanagh and Lieutenant Mark Wachter explained that these tow trucks are legally allowed to pick up cars from parking lots outside supermarkets and other stores if it is evident the driver of the car is not patronizing the establishment or establishments for whom the lot is designated. It may be an ugly fact that the tow trucks circle like sharks, looking for one whose owner has strayed from the lot's stores, but it is permissible, the precinct commander said. However, store owners have to post signs in the lot clearly explaining that those not using the lot properly risk being towed.

Sunnyside United Neighborhood Network (SUNN) is an anti-graffiti group whose leader, Lew Story, is a frequent visitor at local meetings. Though Story was unable to attend the 108th Precinct meeting, another SUNN member, Gina Fabiano, was present to give notice of a clean-up campaign the following Saturday. Wachter said there had been some recent arrests of persons caught etching the glass on bus shelters. Fabiano asked him if he could detect graffiti gang activity in the precinct and he said he could not, only individual efforts. At that point, with several in the audience going over to talk to Fabiano, Kavanagh said the meeting should go on to other matters, since people tend to get carried away by the topic of graffiti.

Bar-restaurant noise is not a neglected topic; one man, who had recently moved to Sunnyside, said he lives 75 to 100 yards from Transylvania (Dracula's Place), 43-46 42nd St., yet even from that distance cannot bear the din coming from it on weekends. He asked if the police could talk to the owner and Kavanagh said he would have some officers pay a visit. The vendor under the 46th/Bliss Street station on the No. 7 line seems to be in place around the clock and his legitimacy was questioned by someone in the audience. Wachter said the vendor had his Department of Consumer Affairs license in order and was totally legitimate.

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