Saturday, September 4, 2010

Residents Turn Out for Crime Prevention by Stephen Geffon - Queens Chronicle

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ime Prevention Officer Lee Petrovits VIN etches car as owner Charles Arndt of Richmond Hill looks on at the Precinct’s crime prevention fair. PHOTO BY STEPHEN GEFFON
More than 100 community residents turned out Saturday afternoon at the Forest Park George Seuffert Sr. Bandshell parking lot to attend the 102nd Precinct’s Crime Prevention Mini Fair.

The fair was co-sponsored by Council- woman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven).

The event featured the NYPD’s free automobile VIN etching service, which marks all windows to deter theft. Residents were also able to register their vehicles in the department’s Combat Auto Theft, Help End Auto Theft and Commuter CAT programs, all free initiatives meant as a deterrent to thieves. Residents whose cars were etched are eligible to receive insurance discounts.

Etching the vehicle identification number on all the windows of a car makes the vehicle a less attractive option for thieves because the VIN number cannot be removed or altered without damaging the window.

The process involves the use of a stencil and glass etching paste.

102nd Precinct Crime Prevention Officer Lee Petrovits said that VIN etching is, “A very beneficial factor in combating grand larcenies in the neighborhood.”

Authorities noted that thieves are most interested in vehicles that are a few years old because they can be easily dismantled for parts. Spare parts for older cars can be harder to find and therefore are more valuable to thieves.

Vehicle theft is the number one property crime in the country — costing Americans about $7.6 billion each year, according to the Insurance Information Institute. A car is stolen in America every 26 seconds, adding up to 1.2 million vehicles annually, the institute reports.

Locally, automobile theft has shown a significant jump in the 102nd Precinct, increasing by 16 percent compared to last year according to NYPD CompStat crime statistics covering the year to date through Aug. 8.

Petrovits has been doing his best to combat that with the 102nd Precinct’s slow, antiquated VIN etching equipment, relegating him to manually type vehicle identification numbers on a typewriter instead of being able to quickly scan them, as allowed by the newer, imaging VIN etching systems.

Petrovits said the equipment he has access to limits the number of residents he can register in the program at each event.

However, that could soon change with the help of elected officials. For one, Crowley said she supports the idea of the precinct getting new VIN etching equipment.

“I believe it is important that our police forces are equipped with the latest and greatest technology needed to keep our streets safe,” Crowley said. “That is why I am committed to helping the 102nd Precinct acquire a new VIN etching machine to fight against auto theft in our community.”

Miller said he will also work with other elected officials to make sure that the 102nd Precinct has the proper equipment to do the job.