ASTORIA — More police officers may be soon patrolling the streets of the 114th Precinct, which has lost half of its cops since 2001 and has been experiencing an uptick in crime in recent months, police officials said.
Through September, crime in the area was up 11 percent compared to the same period last year. In October, crime went down, but still remains about 8 percent higher than during the same period in 2011. Citywide crime is up a little over 4 percent, said Deputy Inspector Stephen Cirabisi during a community council meeting in Astoria on Tuesday night.
The spike in crime in the 114th Precinct, which covers Astoria and parts of Long Island City, has been fueled by an increase in murder, rape and thefts.
Through Oct. 14th, there have been seven murders this year, compared to four last year during the same time period. And rapes are up 62 percent — there have been 34 this year, compared to 21 in 2011.
There have also been 552 grand larcenies, compared to 489 over the same period last year, an increase of 13 percent, NYPD statistics showed.
In addition, several shooting incidents have recently occurred in the Queensbridge Houses area, Cirabisi said, including one where a 15-year old girl was hit by a stray bullet while doing her schoolwork at home.
He noted that an increase in crime involving electronics, especially iPhones, a citywide trend, contributed to the spike.
However, on Sept. 26, three youths, whose names were not immediately available, were charged with robbery for one of the phone snatching incidents in Astoria. Since then the pattern observed earlier in the area has stopped, he added.
Asked about the increase in rape, Cirabisi said that in many cases "perpetrators and victims know each other," and the precinct's domestic violence unit is working hard to prevent further incidents. "People are also meeting each other on the internet," he added.
Cirabisi noted that he is hoping to get a group of new officers in the next several weeks although he was not sure how many cops would join the precinct. “We are looking forward to getting some reinforcements which will definitely help us out,” he said.
Local councilman Peter Vallone Jr. said in an earlier interview that there were around 300 cops in the 114th Precinct in 2001 and now there are half that. Aiming to improve the situation, Vallone recently resurrected a neighborhood watch initiative after more than 25 years.
Cirabisi added that he had been trying to address the increase in crime by analyzing trends and moving resources around as well as by changing hours when officers work and matching them with the time when crimes occur.