By Carla Zanoni
WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Police are warning residents in a section of Washington Heights to secure their windows and be on the alert for a group of young men suspected of using fire escapes to break into apartments and steal electronics.
Police will be increasing patrols in the area, and will deploy officers to local buildings in search of suspicious activity. Officers will arrest people they find inside the buildings who are in violation of the Manhattan District Attorney's Trespass Affidavit Program, which allows police to arrest non-residents and resident guests from registered apartment buildings, Navarro said.
"Don't be alarmed if you see officers on the rooftops," he said.
Most troubling to police is the average age of the suspected burglars, who police believe are in their late teens and operate as a group Navarro called a "crew."
"We've seen a change," he said. "It used to be older guys, now they're much younger."
The 34th Precinct has seen a 70 percent increase in burglaries in April, with 17 incidents reported last month up from 10 burglaries in April 2010, according to a NYPD CompStat report from April 11 to 17.
The number of burglaries across the city have risen 13.6 percent this year — with 67 in the first four months of 2011 versus 59 reported incidents in the first four months of 2010.
The 34th Precinct has seen a slight uptick in overall crime since last year, rising 3.34 percent, according to the NYPD statistics.
The area of concern in Washington Heights is the same section of the neighborhood that was the target of the 34th Precinct's so-called "Impact Zone," which flooded the neighborhood with police officers recruited from different precincts in order to address a surge in crime in October.
The surge of police helped bring down crime by December, according to police, but by January, Navarro announced that the majority of those officers had been reassigned to other precincts.