Today’s news:

Cutting subway police unit will hurt Queens: Vallone

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D−Astoria) warned the NYPD Monday that if they remove police officers from Queens subways, it would seriously compromise the safety of straphangers.

The New York Post reported Monday that the NYPD would close the Queens Transit Task Force and merge the 48 officers of the unit into Queens’ transit districts.

Vallone, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee, said he was concerned over the possibility of losing uniformed officers who patrol the tracks, platforms and cars, since robbery increased slightly in the city in 2008.

“Subways are the arteries that carry the lifeblood of this city, and crime is a fatal disease that could infect it,” the councilman said in a statement. “As we continue to cut these vital services one by one, there is no doubt crime will begin to creep back upward.”

An NYPD spokesman would not comment on the reported cutback. Vallone sent a letter to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly Monday asking him to reconsider shutting down the task force and cited several examples in Astoria of how bad crime in the subway can get.

In 2008, there were several misdemeanors that took place on the trains and in the various subway stations that serve the N and W lines, such as graffiti and window etching. He also noted the October shoot−out that took place between a fare jumper and three officers in the Queensbridge station that left two officers wounded.

“We should not allow Queens to get railroaded on police coverage,” Vallone said.

Due to city budget cuts, the NYPD had 33,000 officers this year and that number is expected to drop more in 2009, according to the councilman. Vallone said the city has not seen such a low number of officers since 1991 and he attributed the 2 percent increase in robbery and 5 percent increase in murder citywide in 2008 to the lack of police presence.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

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