2012-01-25 / Features

Astoria Women Hear Crime Deterrent Advice

BY THOMAS COGAN


As part of his ongoing effort to engage the community in public safety through the formation of neighborhood and block watch programs, Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. joined local selfdefense expert Antonio Meloni at his free self-defense and crime prevention seminar at the Immaculate Conception School, along with Crime Prevention Police Officer John Glynn of the 114th Precinct, representatives from Safe Horizon, community leaders, and auxiliary police. As part of his ongoing effort to engage the community in public safety through the formation of neighborhood and block watch programs, Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. joined local selfdefense expert Antonio Meloni at his free self-defense and crime prevention seminar at the Immaculate Conception School, along with Crime Prevention Police Officer John Glynn of the 114th Precinct, representatives from Safe Horizon, community leaders, and auxiliary police. Last Wednesday, January 18, at the Immaculate Conception R.C. Church school auditorium on 29th Street just north of Ditmars Boulevard, an audience mainly of women, ranging in age from young adult to elderly, attended an anti-crime forum for women conducted by Antonio Meloni, whose several activities in Astoria include being head of the New York Anti-Crime Agency, an organization dedicated not only to fighting crime but also to civic improvement. Crime statistics for the 114th Police Precinct and elementary self-defense techniques were presented by Meloni, 114th Precinct Police Officer John Glynn and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

Meloni introduced Glynn by reminding everyone that he and other police officers are able and willing to conduct security checks for homes and businesses, pointing out ways homeowners and people in business can better protect themselves against burglary and robbery. Glynn began by referring to the seven socalled “index crimes”, saying that of them, burglary and grand larceny tend to be of greatest concern to any precinct. He defined grand larceny as theft of goods of value exceeding about $1,500, and pointed out that the category can also include forcible robbery—snatching—of such items as purses, necklaces and cellphones. He said that for the year thus far, grand larceny is down but burglary is up. He recommended closed circuit television and high-visibility lighting as deterrents, though that tip seemed to be aimed at commercial establishments. As a deterrent to domestic burglary, he said that it helps residents to know their neighbors and to be able to tell them from unfamiliar persons who might arouse suspicion when they show up in a neighborhood.

Asked about recent incidents for which arrests were reportedly made, Glynn said he didn’t care to discuss possible arrests. Vallone then delivered his own crime report, complete with what he had heard about arrests.

Meloni said that civic interest in Astoria is always high. He told of an officer who had been commander of the 114th Precinct some 20 years ago, who moved on to a command in The South Bronx and who later told him that trying to raise civic awareness and participation there was difficult, especially when he remembered his days in Astoria, which, he said, had “spoiled” him. Meloni then introduced two women of the citizen’s emergency response team (CERT), a patrol officer and a young woman officer of the 114th Auxiliary Police Force, as examples of local interest in law and order.

Meloni teaches an eight-week course in selfdefense, but said it takes at least a couple of weeks in such a course before a student adjusts to the rudiments of self-defense. What he was talking about for the audience at hand was basic steps women could take to avoid trouble and what might be done to escape, should trouble befall them. “Your first line of defense is you,” he said, and it’s necessary to maintain awareness of situations that might imperil you. Texting and using a Blackberry might seem harmless, but if done in a public place where a grab-and-run thief can set a victim up for a sur- prise, they can be dangerous, or at least distressing.

In the case of physical assault, Meloni’s advice to women was to keep in mind that time is not on an assailant’s side; he (presumably the assailant is a male) wants to surprise and overwhelm a victim before she knows what’s happening. Any deterrence may work in a victim’s favor. He asked the women to demonstrate screaming, and a few did; he then said that most women can scream and run, so if anyone who can, should. While running, a victim could pull out a cellphone and make a noisy call to 911, even if it’s fake, which might discourage him from any pursuit.

If it must come to physical force, Meloni said, your best chance is with the heel of your hand to any part of his nose, or by giving his head the force of your forearm and elbow. He recalled advice, once regularly given to women, never to make the assailant angry. “Nonsense,” Meloni said. “If he’s after you, he’s already angry.” He did not recommend trying to gouge an assailant’s eyes or kick him in the crotch. The first would require unhesitating determination to do something nasty, and a victim might not have the will (or the skill) to do it, even in this circumstance. The second would entail bringing a foot off the ground, and a missed attempt could allow an assailant to grab a victim’s leg and send her to the ground hard, leaving her in pain and peril.

With a young woman from CERT, Meloni demonstrated a simple technique better and easier to keep in mind. If an assailant grabs you by the arm with his hand, a vigorous yank of your arm in an upward direction will probably pull it loose from his grip, because the force you exert is likely to be stronger than the weak area of his grip, where thumb and finger meet. Having done that, a victim will find it’s probably time to scream and run.

Meloni’s final piece of advice was: anyone who has survived such an experience should report it immediately.

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