October 25, By Tara Law
Burglary is on the rise in Astoria, according to the most recent figures.
Captain Osvaldo Nunez, the commanding officer for the 114th precinct, said that there were 33 burglaries reported for the 28-day period ending Oct 15, compared to just 21 for the same period last year. The incidents, he said, have taken place throughout the precinct, although there have been hotspots such as businesses being targeted in the southern section of Astoria–and houses being hit located on quiet streets in the northern part of the area.
Nunez, who spoke at the precinct’s community council meeting Wednesday, said that the police have identified one man who is believed to be responsible for six of those burglaries. He has been targeting businesses near 31st Avenue and Steinway Street, including a grocery store, a department store and a dry cleaner. The precinct is awaiting the results of DNA tests to be certain.
Nuñez said that some of the stores that were burglarized left tools lying around–making themselves an easier target. For instance, the burglar used a shovel to open a window of the dry cleaner, and a ladder to climb through a window of a department store.
Most of the other burglaries in the precinct were residential, with a number taking place in detached or partially detached houses in the southern section of Astoria.
Captain Roger Sankerdial, who also spoke at the precinct meeting, said that the thieves were often entering through rear windows— places out of sight from the quiet streets. He said the precinct has started sending more officers in plain clothes to patrol back alleys near these homes.
The police have made three burglary arrests in the past month, although Nuñez said that burglaries are difficult crimes to solve since there are often no witnesses.
Residential burglaries usually occur during the daytime, when the residents are at work, while commercial burglaries typically take place at night.
Despite the uptick, the number of burglaries are down by 20.6 percent for the year through October 15, compared to the same period in 2016..
Meanwhile, another category where crime has spiked lately is with felony assaults.
There were 34 felony assaults for the 28-day period ending October 15, versus 24 for the same 28 day period last year. Felony assaults are up by 7.1 percent year-to-date, compared to the same time frame a year ago.
A good portion of the assaults took place at bars and night clubs, Nunez said. Bottles were a common weapon. Most of the victims and perpetrators didn’t know each other prior to the assaults.
Nuñez said that the rate of domestic violence has remained flat.
Gabe Torar, with the precinct’s Community Affairs Division, said that the number of major crimes reported in the precinct is down a whopping 16 percent for the year through October 15, compared to the same time frame in 2016.
“It’s a great neighborhood and crime is down,” Torar said. However, he said people still need to take precautions such as locking windows and doors.
“People feel safe and they let their guards down.”