SUNNYSIDE — The NYPD has beefed up subway patrols in Western Queens after a rash of subterranean crimes last year, including robberies and thefts, mostly of cellphones — part of a citywide strategy to reduce crime underground.
The move in the 108th Precinct — which includes 15 stations in Long Island City, Woodside and Sunnyside — was made because the area was home to the most transit crimes in Queens last year, with pilfered phones the most common offense, according to Transit Bureau Capt. Michael Telfer.
"What the bureau has done is given me additional resources, as far as the 108 is concerned," Telfer said.
Crime in the subway system has increased for the past three years, but has reportedly been beaten back since the beginning of the year.
Since January, the NYPD has posted additional uniformed officers at stations throughout the 108th Precinct, Telfer said, with 28 extra cops patrolling the area's trains during day shifts and another 28 cops assigned to the overnight. Additional officers from the NYPD's anti-terrorism unit will also be patrolling at night, he said.
"Our goal is what you saw in the past — to try and have a cop on every train on the overnight," Telfer said, adding that similar tactics are being employed at other precincts in Brooklyn, Harlem and Midtown Manhattan.
Midtown South had the largest number of subway crimes last year, Telfer said.
"Midtown South in Manhattan really led the pack last year because of tourists," he said.
The overnight shift sees the highest number of subway thefts, Telfer said, because sleepy riders who doze off are more vulnerable.
"They fall asleep and then they get robbed," he said, adding that they regularly dispatch officers to busy stations like Queensboro Plaza to hand out fliers on the importance of keeping your property close.
Telfer said thieves like to target riders who have their smart phones in plain sight, grabbing them and darting off the train as the doors close.
"They wait until they hear that 'ding-dong,' and then they grab the phones and they run," he said.
Deputy Inspector Donald Powers, who runs the 108th Precinct, said the additional transit cops have been effective: there have been 221 transit arrests within the precinct so far this year, compared to 142 at the same time last year.
"As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding," he said.