The Wave and detectives from the 100 and 101 precincts are once again sharing the limelight as two more "most wanted" fugitives from justice were taken into custody over the past weekend, bringing the program’s total apprehensions to 77.
Just hours after The Wave hit the newsstands Friday Richie Stratton was spotted on Beach 20 street. Following a tip to the CRIME-STOPPERS Hotline, detectives from the 101 precinct picked up Stratton and he was subsequently collared by Detective Ed Keevan of the 100 precinct detective squad.
Stratton, of Rockaway Park, was wanted in connection with at least five recent burglaries within the confines of the 100 Precinct. He was also in violation of his parole, having recently been incarcerated on drug related charges.
Additionally Rondell Mitchell, a.k.a. "Doughboy", turned himself in Saturday to detectives at the 101 Precinct. Mitchell was wanted for the October 20, 1999 shooting that took place at 55-05 Beach Channel drive. Arrested by Detective Joseph Savine of the 101 Precinct Detective Squad, Mitchell now faces prosecution on charges of assault in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon.
This weekend’s arrests came on the heels of the apprehension of Petey Acosta the previous week, again just hours after The Wave hit the streets. Acosta was wanted for two criminal contempt charges and had two outstanding warrants.
The Wave is being directly credited for the tips that led to the arrests of Acosta and Stratton and indirectly for Mitchell turning himself in.
Since the inception of the "Most Wanted Fugitives From Justice" column that first appeared in The Wave in early 1997, the newspapers and the two local Rockaway precincts have 77 apprehensions to their credit and less than a handful of fugitives that remain on the Rockaway’s most wanted lists.
Former commanding officer of the 101 Precinct Jeff Behrens and Sgt. Artie Nappo, head of the 100 precinct detective squad, along with Wave Associate Editor Joan Ward George were the three individuals responsible for getting the program started locally. Within its first year, The Wave was honored by the New York Press Association with a community service award for the success of the program brought about by The Wave’s close coverage of all the fugitives who are at large on Rockaway’s streets.
Nappo, Behrens and George also shared the limelight last year when the New York City Police Foundation singled them out as having among the most successful program in the city. They were named Crimestoppers of the Year last year and shared center stage at the awards ceremony with Mayor Giuliani.
After the latest three apprehensions Police Lt. Richard Kuberski of the NYPD Crimestoppers division called the efforts of The Wave "fantastic". "Lately as soon as The Wave hits the streets, we’ve been getting calls that lead to arrests," Kuberski stated. "The readers are realizing that articles like the one that lead to the last arrest because of a tip, are going to make people call on the next one they see. We at Crimestoppers look forward to the continued success of The Wave’s Most Wanted column."
"I credit the detectives in both precincts for the success rate we’ve grown to," said George. "Their tenacity with following up on all leads and their straightforwardness with me makes all the difference in the world. Police usually clam up around the working press, but we knew from the beginning that program could only work if we kept open lines of communication, and that’s just what we did, and it continues to work.
"I would be remiss if I didn’t single out Artie Nappo and the driving force behind the program. Once he realized what we had going, he put all of his energies into making it work. We talk two to three times a week and keep each other informed of new happenings. Everyone involved in the program from the precinct commanding officers, to the detectives, to NYPD’s public information office, to the officers that staff the Crimestoppers division. It’s definitely a team effort.
"The Wave’s dedication to the program for the past nearly three years has been phenomenal. Wave publisher Leon Locke has been gung-ho on the Most Wanted column from day one and is solely responsible for the thousands of inches that the paper dedicates to the program each year."
According to George, the community is not always behind the column and frequent calls, some from very politically connected individuals, come into The Wave asking the management to remove the unsavory stories and pictures from the front page of their "community newspaper."
"Running the pictures on the front page is exactly why The Wave’s most wanted program has received the acclaim and success it enjoys to date," said George." The Wave’s commitment to keeping the Rockaway peninsula safe and removing the criminals from its streets is something I feel should be commended, not questioned."