Queens District Attorney Richard Brown last week announced that his office has successfully secured a significant grant from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services to help combat vehicle theft and insurance fraud.
The $556,000 award is part of a $3.7 million grant package that Gov. Andrew Cuomo said will be distributed to 17 agencies and organizations across the state for the purpose of enhancing their efforts in reducing the two crimes.
The Queens DA’s Office received the largest grant—with good reason. While the rate of car thefts has dropped tremendously since Brown become the borough’s chief law enforcement officer 24 years ago—to 2,411 in 2013 from a high of roughly 52,000 annually in early 1990s—grand larceny auto remains a problem for police and prosecutors, especially in south Queens commands.
“The 106th Precinct has suffered a 25-percent increase in stolen vehicles this past year, with a commensurate increase in vehicle theft arrests of 115 percent,” said Dep. Inspector Jeffrey Schiff, commanding officer of the 106th. “These perpetrators need to be vigorously investigated and prosecuted, and with the Queens District Attorney’s Office help, this can more easily be achieved.”
Schiff added that the grant “can only help all of us in law enforcement,” and that “Queens will surely reap the benefits, especially this community… This, indeed, is most welcomed news.”
The extra funding, Brown said, will strengthen the office’s Auto Crime and Insurance Fraud Unit, an arm of the Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau. The unit focuses on the investigation and prosecution of auto theft and insurance fraud-related cases by incorporating a multi-pronged approach: making use of specialized prosecutors and investigators; long-term investigations and sting operations; the development and use of confidential informants; sophisticated technology and surveillance equipment; detailed analysis of crime statistics and patterns; and strong partnerships with police and other law enforcement agencies as well as the insurance industry.
Brown detailed how this year’s award will specifically support: the salaries of four full-time assistant district attorneys assigned to the Auto Crime and Insurance Fraud Unit; the partial salary of the bureau chief of the Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau, who oversees the Auto Crime and Insurance Fraud Unit; and the salaries of three full-time investigators who work on auto theft and insurance fraud related investigations.
Brown added that the grant “will significantly enhance our efforts to go after those who would steal vehicles and auto parts from hard-working Queens residents, and those who would scheme to defraud insurance companies, both of which drive up the cost of insurance for all motorists.”
By Michael V. Cusenza