2012-04-04 / Front Page

Vallone Fights Back With Library Surveillance Cameras


Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. continues to wrestle crime in his district, installing a series of surveillance cameras in the area to help snare unsuspecting criminals caught in the act.
Vallone, who heads the City Council Public Safety Committee, last week kept his promise to install cameras at the Queens Library branch at 21-45 31st Street in Astoria, where a man allegedly fondled a child in August 2011.
Police sources said the seven-year-old victim told investigators the man was “creeping around” in the second floor Children’s Section at the library’s Steinway Branch just before he approached her.
The child told police she was sitting on the floor, reading, when the man tried to engage her in conversation – and then grabbed her feet.
“She was very clear on the facts,” police sources said. “She told investigators she was terrified, and didn’t know what to do.”
“She said the man sniffed her feet, rubbed them against his soft beard and kissed them. He did the same to each foot and then he picked up her flip-flops and just sniffed them,” police sources said.
The man fled when the terrified child ran to her mother on the first floor of the library, the sources said.
The child’s vivid recollection of the incident helped police to produce a sketch of the suspect.
Police said the incident is an open case of misdemeanor child endangerment, which could put the suspect behind bars for up to one year, if convicted.
Vallone told the Gazette he spoke with the child and her mother after the incident, and he was enraged that, when caught, the suspect would not face a charge that carries a stiffer penalty.
“Somebody who does this to a child should be charged with a felony,” Vallone said.
Vallone said he has received support from state Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas to introduce new legislation to increase penalties imposed in cases such as this.
A spokesperson for Gianaris said both the senator and Simotas introduced legislation to increase the charge of Forcible Touching of a Minor from a misdemeanor to a felony count, thereby significantly increasing possible jail time for convicted offenders.
The Astoria lawmaker secured funding to cover the cost of installing surveillance cameras at the library branch and is working to secure funding for cameras in all library branches in his council district – a move that will help police identify suspects and act as a deterrent to this type of crime.
Vallone is also working with Antonio Meloni, director of the New York Anti-Crime Agency, to provide seminars for parents – instructing them on crime prevention and emergency preparedness methods that can be taught to children.
“We have to begin with the parents if we want to reach the children,” Meloni said. “When parents understand how this instruction can help safeguard their children, they are eager to participate.”
New York Anti-Crime has scheduled a series of four seminars for parents, Meloni said. Anyone seeking information on the free seminars should click on www.meloni25@iasny.org.
Detectives at the Queens Child Sex Abuse Squad are seeking help from the public to identify and locate the suspect in the August 2011 library attack.
Police are urging anyone with information on the suspect to call the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS or click on www.nypdcrimestoppers.com. All calls and e-mails will be kept confidential.

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