Rabbi Stuart Verstandig, President of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, greeted community members at the shul on Wednesday evening, November 30, to discuss safety concerns and to learn about ways to help make the neighborhood safer. Rabbi Verstandig shared that Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, the shul’s Rabbi Emeritus, established a strong relationship with the members of NYPD’s 107 Precinct.

Officer Matthew Zakian spoke about crimes and ongoing concerns in our neighborhood. He shared that the recent homicide on Main Street and 77th Avenue is under investigation, with police following individuals of interest. They believe it was a gang-related incident that originated in another precinct. If anyone living in that vicinity has video surveillance of that area from the time of the incident, he or she should contact the 107 Precinct.

He commented that everyone should have video surveillance, as it is a huge deterrent for crime. A police van is stationed in that vicinity since that homicide occurred.

He noted that the biggest issue in our neighborhood currently is car break-ins. Do not leave your car unlocked and do not leave any valuables in the car. Also, do not leave your car’s engine running while you run to do a quick errand. In addition, he cautioned, “Do not leave your spare keys in your car.” He shared that a drug addict who was chronically breaking into cars was just arrested yesterday.

He said you should have packages delivered when you are home or have a neighbor bring them inside. This will avoid package theft.

Someone asked about the recent scourge of robberies of catalytic convertors. Officer Zakian acknowledged that it is an ongoing issue. There is a crew who jack up the car in the middle of the night and saw off the convertor. The only way they can be apprehended is if they are caught at the time that they are doing it, so he encourages anyone who notices someone working on a car in the middle of the night to contact the police. The police are working on having serial numbers branded onto catalytic convertors so they would be able to trace them and track them. They will post on social media when they plan to have an event where they will have local gas stations brand on those serial numbers.

He pointed out that most crime in our neighborhood is involving property and not physical violence. He also cautioned that if you are involved in a car accident, the safest thing to do is to pull over and move to the nearest exit.

If you see someone acting suspiciously, you should call the police. He advised to call 911 if there is an emergency, rather than calling the precinct.

Someone asked about the drag racing on Main Street, and the officer shared that legally they cannot chase these offenders, but once they pull over, then they can stop them.

He then shared that you should only mail letters with checks at the post office to avoid someone taking a check and removing the ink and rewriting it. If you have to mail it, use a jell pen as those cannot be washed off.

He also stressed that the IRS will not call you for money; they will send a registered letter. Be aware that there are phone scams going on and the government won’t request payment in gift cards. People call and claim your relative is in jail and you have to send money. These are scams. Scammers will ask you for gift cards in order to pay an IRS debt, to keep your Social Security benefits, to keep your utilities on, to pay for tech support, to pay for a family member in trouble, to pay a member of the military needing money, to pay bail or ransom, to avoid arrest or deportation. They will say its urgent and don’t tell anyone. They will tell you which gift card to buy and to provide the gift card number and pin. Safety tips include the following: Gift cards are for gifts, not payment. Stick to stores you know and trust; avoid buying from online auction sites. Check the card before you buy it: make sure the PIN on the back isn’t showing. Keep your receipt, as this will help you file a report if you lose the gift card.

Next, Shmira officer Avraham Pinkhasov, Coordinator for Shmira, spoke briefly about the role of Shmira in our neighborhood. ”We are there to assist the police and be eyes and ears for them.” Shmira has steady patrols in our neighborhood. The organization originated seven years ago. Their hotline is 718-329-4444.

Next, Officer Zakian suggested that you get in touch with Mr. Meshulam Lisker, who is the community partner if you have questions or concerns.

Sorolle Ides of the Community Alliance, shared, “We all need to partner with the police.” She urged everyone to purchase surveillance cameras, lock your car door, and don’t leave any valuables or packages in the car. We can do things to protect ourselves. Leave outside lights on and leave inside lights on if you go away.

Officer Zakian concluded, “Help yourself by not being a victim. Be aware of your surroundings.”

The community appreciates the dedicated work and help of the 107 Precinct. Hashem should continue to protect our community!

 By Susie Garber