2006-03-03 / Front Page

SRO Draws Neighbors’ Ire

Residents of one street in Rockaway Park last week flooded the 100 Precinct Community Council meeting to call for intense police scrutiny of an unsavory SRO on their block.

The neighbors say the problem property – 159 Beach 119 Street – is rife with suspicious nighttime activity. It’s also the new residence of John Laporta, a registered Level 2 sex offender who police say has a history of other criminal activity.

Neighbors said the single-room-occupancy dwelling has been a problem since 2001, but they were pushed to their collective limit when they learned that a sex offender had moved in.

“I have a 12-year-old boy and that registered sex offender did something to a boy that age,” one father told Captain Charles Neacy, the commanding officer of the 100 Precinct.

“How can we do something before it happens?” asked another parent. It’s a tough question for local police and community members who must walk the line between vigilance and harassment.

Police have the benefit of being notified when registered offenders move into the area and they have the option of notifying schools and others described by the state as “entities with vulnerable populations.” But the general public goes largely uninformed: Schools may or may not send home notices with students, and the only surefire way for everyone else to find out is to constantly monitor the state’s online sex offender registry at www.CriminalJustice.State.NY.US.

Neacy told Beach 119 Street residents that police officers were well aware of the SRO and were routinely called there. “I’m on your block a lot,” he reassured them.

The meeting was unusual because it drew about 60 people (the average headcount is about 20), and because the owners of the SRO, Jacob and Herliza “Sheala” Amrussi, were on hand to listen and then share their side of the story.

Herliza blamed the legal system for making it hard to get rid of deadbeat tenants. Her good tenants, she said, are also complaining about the situation and she has hired a lawyer. “We are very decent people,” she told The Wave.

The community council seemed like the perfect venue to air the issue. Police served as a buffer between the residents, who at first were clearly angry and the Amrussi’s, who at first seemed to be indifferent. By the end, the Amrussi’s were discussing the issue with neighbors who offered varying degrees of sympathy. Meanwhile, it was clear that the neighbors got their message across to the police: Neacy said his officers would be watching.

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