Graffiti and trash took center stage at this month’s Juniper Park Civic Association meeting, and representatives of the neighborhood’s elected officials got an earful of criticism from neighbors tired of fighting the same old battles.
At the meeting on March 10, NYPD Deputy Inspector Keith Green from 104th Precinct discussed the rise in car thefts and the thieves changing tactics [see Page 5], as well as crime statistics in the precinct—arrests are up 11.7 percent—before ceding the floor to the night’s special guest, District Attorney Richard Brown.
Brown championed many facets of operation in the DA’s office, from the 300 assistant district attorneys (of which 57 percent are women) to extensive amount of wiretaps conducted in the borough (15 percent of all non-federal wiretaps). After Brown’s presentation, Assistant District Attorney Michael Brovner explained what his office is doing to combat graffiti.
Brovner said that his office has established liaisons in each precinct and transit authority, helping to develop a wealth of expert witnesses, but that the most important tool in convicting vandals is identifying their signatures. The Signature Tag Program has been invaluable, but more could be done, he said.
“When someone gets arrested and we’re trying to do the signature tag, we need someone to tell us when and where similar tags were made,” he said. Brovner suggested residents take photos and video if they see new graffiti, and to report graffiti to police and 311 as soon as it is spotted.
Additionally, Brovner said the DA is trying to prosecute graffiti crimes to the fullest extent possible. Vandalism that does damage under $250 is a misdemeanor, damage of more than $250 is a felony, and damage that exceeds $1,500 is a high felony. Brovner said his office hopes to focus on recidivism and try to make vandals to pay restitution, as well as perform community service cleaning up graffiti. Documentation will be key to the successful conviction of graffiti felonies, he said.
“If you’re a victim of graffiti, make sure you document how much it costs to repair,” he said.
There are currently seven cases in Queens being prosecuted as felonies and several more as misdemeanors.
Deputy Inspector Green added that several recent newspaper reports citing nearly 800 graffiti complaints to 311 last year were inaccurate. Of last year’s complaints, almost 700 were self reported by the 104th Precinct. Only 13 came from the public. This year to date, the 104th Precinct has reported 136 graffiti complaints to 311; the public has made three.
“Call 311 and report graffiti,” he said. “Get it on the record.”
Brovner closed with an anecdote—he loves visiting graffiti websites, he said, because they all recommend you don’t tag in Queens. “We’re too hard on graffiti here,” he said.
After the graffiti presentation, JPCA President Bob Holden said another sensory assault deserved attention: The trash train is still wafting through Middle Village and Maspeth. Waste Management, the company operating the train, is hauling trash from six community boards and, according to Holden, gets shipped to Waverly, Virginia. Holden said he had inquired about using a barge to haul the trash, rather than a train. The response, he said: “There’s not enough garbage.”
“It’s not profitable for them,” he said.
Michael Gluck, special assistant to U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens), said Weiner is putting pressure on companies to repower their fleets, eliminating diesel fuel. Additionally, he said, congress needs to push for trash barges or at the least, covered trains.
Gluck said Weiner is always available if his constituents have an issue to discuss.
Anthony Pedalino, who has been pushing for years to get the trash train out of the neighborhood, stood up and—practically red in the face—shouted, “I’ve called and I’ve e-mailed and I’ve e-mailed, with no response. As far as I’m concerned Anthony Weiner doesn’t exist.”
Manny Caruana blasted the area’s elected officials for taking credit for solutions they didn’t initiate. “If our politicians want to get their name in the paper, let them do something, let them lend a hand,” he said.
Several others took the microphone to voice similar concerns about their representatives.
“If they do nothing, stop electing them,” Holden said.
Written By David Harvey