2018-04-04 / Front Page

108th Police Precinct Community Board Meeting

By Thomas Cogan
At the end of March, the 108th Police Precinct Community Council paid tribute to Sergeant David Porter on his retirement, calling him one of the command’s most respected figures.  Commander Captain Ralph Forgione recited a crime report that revealed a decline of 61 in the number of index crimes committed in the first quarter of 2018.  The Blissville issue, having to do with the conversion of hotels to homeless shelters in a small neighborhood touching Greenpoint Avenue and the Queens-Midtown Expressway, descended in force on the meeting as many indignant residents came to say the situation is bad and bound to become worse.  The captain admitted that information from the Department of Homeless Services had been coming his way only recently but said also that he’s much better informed now.

A report about suspicious activities along Newtown Creek and the inlet of Dutch Kills was also news to the captain but not to one officer who has been covering the situation.  The captain was aware, however, of another situation, at the junction of Vernon Boulevard and 43rd Avenue where taxi owners use the streets and sidewalks as their own parking lot,  two men at the meeting argued.

Sgt. Porter appeared at the meeting two days before his retirement date, having served on the police force a few months short of 32 years.  He joined the force in July 1986 and came to the 108th Precinct 12 years later.  He said that the decision to get into law enforcement grew out of a personal tragedy involving his brother.  He praised the many fellow officers in the room at Sunnyside Community Services and wished his wife, a neo-natal nurse, might get off duty in time to join him and their children and grandchild.  As he left, he took away with him several framed certificates, including one from the community council that included an impressive illustration of him by Sunnyside artist Pat Dorfman .  Capt. Forgione said of Sgt. Porter that when he has mentioned his name anywhere in the borough he has found it both recognized and complimented.  He also called him a masterful trainer of other officers.  Sgt. Porter plans to retire to Florida. 

The captain’s crime report, covering both the previous four weeks and the year to date, shows crime to be lower in both periods.  There was one reported rape during this year’s 20-day period versus two for 2017’s.  Felonious assaults were down to 12 in number from 14; burglaries down sharply to five from 13; grand larcenies to 26 from 36 and grand larceny auto to seven from nine.  Robberies increased in frequency in the 28-day period, finishing at five, up from two. 

In the year to date, it was a clean sweep over 2017.  There were two rapes, in the more recent period, down from three.  Felonious assaults were down significantly, to 23 from 41.  Grand larceny stood at 91, down from 101; grand larceny auto at 18 from 23; and robbery at 14 from 21.  The total from the latest 28-day period was 56, down from 76, and for the year to date was 169, from 230. 

Captain Forgione observed that he doesn’t regard domestic violence statistics as embarrassing if it means getting them out as public information, which might drive down their frequency.  He told the story of one woman who was repeatedly abused, even so far as being stabbed in the abdomen, who kept insisting that her brutal partner loved her.  After the knife attack, though, she was gradually persuaded that she should separate herself from him. 

Blissville residents are desperate that their small community will be completely ruined by the conversion of local hotels into homeless shelters.   The third hotel among them, the Fairview Inn, 52-34 Van Dam St., has been promoted as an early step toward the day when advanced shelters will replace the ones now in existence.  To those bringing their complaints to the 108th Precinct meeting, Capt. Forgione explained that he had seen the Fairview Inn in its new state as a shelter called North Star.  It is built for 154 couples, ranging from quite young to a generation or so older.  It has 11 security guards and 24/7 service, he said, and features treatment for drug addiction and other maladies.  All residents are scrutinized closely.  “Everything I would have recommended they do they have done,” he said.  Many in attendance were far from satisfied to hear this.  One of them said she had seen the place too, finding it unattractive and too small for the proposed task.

Eric Baard, who knows the city’s waterways very well, was at the meeting to speak about a man who rents out sailboats on Newtown Creek, near its mouth at the East River.  He said the business attracts young people who take the boats out.  It sounds all right, even if the rentals are strictly for cash; but Baard said that there have been several destructive occurrences along the creek lately.  Those incidents have disturbed the ones harmed by them to suspect that the man who owns the sailboats (said to be at least a dozen in number) may be involved.  The captain said he had heard nothing of these incidents, but a nearby officer said he had investigated them.  The captain said he would ask the Harbor Patrol to make a further investigation.

A building owner near the junction of Vernon Boulevard and 43rd Street said he has appealed to the police and the Department of Sanitation to do something about the taxi owners who, as he said, treat the neighborhood as their parking lot.  Another man joined him in protest.  The captain said he is familiar with the quarrel and has tried in his way to deal with it but had to lament that a thickness of agencies was hindering any effort toward a solution.

A woman in Woodside said that in her neighborhood, on 72nd Street near Queens Boulevard, big backyard parties have been breaking out relatively recently and putting everything in a state of unrest, at all hours.  She also said that as if that weren’t bad enough, as many as 25 or 30 guys come down the streets whenever they feel the time is right to raid the local trash containers or recycle bins for cans and bottles to turn in for cash.  The commander said he would look into it.. 


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