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Queens DA vows safer streets amid 2009 crime drop

Although crime dropped significantly last year in Queens, District Attorney Richard Brown said his office would work harder to keep borough streets safe.

Speaking to city, state and federal elected officials at a breakfast at his Kew Gardens offices Friday, Brown announced he and his staff handled more than 76,000 cases in 2009, an 80 percent increase since 1993. The increase in prosecutions complemented a major drop in serious crimes over the last year, according to the DA.

“Clearly, these figures — showing that the levels have remained near or below their historic lows — offer clear and compelling evidence that our law enforcement initiatives continue to have a profound impact in making Queens County one of the safest counties not just in the city but in the nation,” he said.

Last year, robbery across the borough declined 14.5 percent, grand larceny dropped 11.4 percent and burglary went down 8.5 percent, according to the DA. Brown noted that since he took office 19 years ago, serious crime was reduced by 78.5 percent.

The borough had the best arrest to arraignment time in the city with 20.87 hours, according to the DA.

“That means that those accused of crime in Queens spend as little time as possible in detention before they see a judge — and that we get our police officers back out on the street more quickly to do their jobs rather than having them hanging out in courthouse corridors,” he said.

Despite the successes, Brown said his office wants to do more to lower crime this year. One of the initiatives he said he would like to expand is the office’s gun reduction program.

Last year, the office had a gun buyback effort in southeast Queens that got more than 900 weapons off the street.

“Among the weapons recovered were more than 500 pistols, assault weapons and sawed-off shotguns,” Brown said.

The DA also said his office aims to crack down on crimes affecting the housing market. The DA’s Economic Crimes Bureau handled 286 complaints last year, most of which dealt with mortgage fraud.

Southeast Queens neighborhoods, including St. Albans and Springfield Gardens, lead the state in the number of foreclosures, many of which were caused by predatory lending.

“As it is elsewhere, mortgage and real estate fraud continued to be a significant problem here in Queens in 2009,” Brown said. “Many of the victims of mortgage and real estate fraud are elderly.”

Brown said his office would also look for prosecution alternatives to lengthy and costly trials. He cited his office’s DWI Treatment Court, which offers substance abuse treatment to selected first-time offenders who plead guilty to DWI, as one of the examples of the new methods to crime fighting.

“I am optimistic that by continuing the very successful strategies that we have employed in recent years we, together with our law enforcement colleagues, can make Queens County even safer in 2010,” Brown said.

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

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