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Fire escapes inviting theft

Crime Prevention Officer Anthony LoVerme discusses a rash of burglaries in the downtown Flushing area. Photo by Joe Anuta
TimesLedger Newspapers

Nimble burglars have been using Flushing fire escapes to break into homes in the downtown area, officers from the 109th Precinct said this week.

The precinct has investigated about six of these crimes just in the last month, said Crime Prevention Officer Anthony LoVerme.

“Nobody should be using the fire escape,” he said at a news conference Tuesday. “Don’t assume they locked themselves out.”

In fact, the precinct is urging residents to be vigilant and make a call if anyone is on a fire escape, since many of them are in the back of buildings and are hidden from the view of officers patrolling in their cruisers.

On Feb. 4, for example, a woman came home from shopping around 4:40 p.m. and found a man inside her apartment, located on Kissena Boulevard between Sanford and Franklin avenues, police said.

The perp was probably frightened by hearing the homeowner return, LoVerme said, and climbed out the window.

He made off with a Louis Vuitton bag, according to police.

Then Feb. 12 on the same block, but this time along Union Street, a 40-year-old woman left her apartment at about noon, according to police. She returned at 7 p.m. and found her front door was still locked, but her kitchen window was open, police said. The thief had crawled in through the fire escape and made off with an iPad and $13,000 in cash, according to cops.

LoVerme urged residents in the 109th Precinct to lock their doors and windows when not at home, and if there is a lot of foot traffic coming in and out of a building, landlords can enroll in a program that aims to prevent trespassing.

The program provides local precincts with a list of tenant names, according to LoVerme. Officers then stop by periodically and arrest anyone who has no business being in the building.

“It can be good for buildings that have a lot of kids loitering,” he said.

LoVerme said the majority of arrests the precinct has made in crimes like these happen when neighbors report suspicious behavior.

Over the longterm, burglaries in the 109th Precinct are down. Since 2001, when there were 964 incidents in the precinct, the number has dropped by nearly 55 percent, according to NYPD crime statistics.

Yet for the year to date, burglaries are up by 46 percent compared to two years ago, the statistics show.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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