Transit CO Asks Assistance From Public
After experiencing a reduction in subway crime last year, Transit District 23, which covers four subway stations within the 101 Precinct as well as the remainder of stations in Rockaway and the mainland north to Jamaica, is reporting an increase in crime in 2008, says Captain Phylis Byrne, the district's Commanding Officer.
Among the reported crimes that are stated by the captain to be on the rise in the subway are purse snatchings that took place at two of the Far Rockaway subway stations.
Byrne talked about the rise in crime in the Far Rockaway area at this month's 101 Precinct Community Council meeting, held this week.
"There have been four grand larcenies," said Byrne. "They have all been bag snatches."
Two of the crimes took place at the Frank Avenue (Beach 44 Street) station and the others at the Edgemere (Beach 36 Street) station. While Byrne said the description of the suspect is not the same in all the crimes, she added that the descriptions in the last two cases were very close.
As she prepared to pass out copies of a sketch of the suspect, Byrne said the police are looking for the community's help in solving these crimes.
The perpetrator is described as a black male, in his mid 20's, about 6 feet in height, with a heavy build and black hair.
He is reported to have been wearing a military style hunting jacket when he last struck at the Beach 36 Street station on February 14.
Byrne explained several strategies she has put in place to combat similar attacks.
She had brought in units from her bureau and increased the number of officers, both plainclothes and uniformed, stationed at the train stations, and riding the trains.
"We've been very successful this week. Meaning we've brought in a number of people that needed to be brought in," Byrne said.
Even though there have been no further purse snatchings since the preventive measures have been put in place, Byrne said people must be careful with their valuables.
Her advice was to not talk on cell phones either on the train or at the train station.
"It's not a safe thing to do, especially if you're traveling alone. Whether you're on the subway or off the subway," she continued.
Also, do not let anyone see you have an I-Pod and stay alert. Criminals are looking for people who are not paying attention to what is happening around them.
"The victims [of these recent crimes] were asleep or falling asleep or just waking up on the train," said Byrne.
She is also making use of a mobile temporary headquarters, which is able to respond immediately to any problems. The captain said the bus-sized vehicle would be moving around between subway stations.
Transit 23 also offers to etch permanent identification numbers in such items as cell phones, I-Pods and laptops. The etchings make it easier to return stolen goods to the owners and to obtain convictions in court.
The most important thing, Byrne said is to keep alert.
"Fifty percent of crime is preventable if you look like you're aware of who's around you and what's going on," Byrne explained. "There's less of a chance you're going to be a victim or a target."