To kick off the meeting, officers Jeremy Brandenburg and Dennis Molgelnicki were honored for their outstanding service to the community in July and August.
Brandenburg received an award for his efforts in catching perpetrators involved in the series of car break-ins that Astoria suffered this summer. Molgenicki received his for catching men who fired off loaded weapons at clubs in Astoria on Wednesday, August 24.
After the awards were handed out, the focus of the meeting turned to prevention. Speakers urged the community to avoid making themselves targets for thieves and other villains.
Open windows, air conditioning units and fire escapes pose opportunities for thieves to rob people's homes, said Lieutenant John Dzwlewicz, a representative from One Police Plaza in Manhattan who spoke at the meeting.
“They walk around, they canvas the area and they look for an opportunity,” he said. Residents can reduce such opportunities by “locking things up and being alert and aware of what's going on on the block.”
Dzwlewicz also encouraged residents to use dead bolt locks on their doors along with alarm systems and to have their keys ready in their hands when they return so they can quickly open their doors and get safely inside.
Doors pose an equally big risk for crime as windows, he said, as there has been a trend of robbers pretending to be utility workers to gain entry into people's homes.
“If somebody rings the bell, don't automatically open that door,” Dzwlewicz said. “Utilize the peep hole, take a look who's outside before you open up.”
As for car break-ins, 114th Precinct Deputy Inspector Stephen Cirabisi said leaving navigational systems and other electronic devices inside vehicles attracts thieves.
He recommended purchasing wheel locks, as tires and rims are also priority items on car robbers' shopping lists.
“Prevention is the key to keeping yourself from being a victim,” Cirabisi said.
He said car thefts are down 10 percent from 10 years ago, and 35 percent from last year, however they are still a problem. Commonly targeted cars include Honda Accords, Toyota Rav-4's and Dodge Caravans, Cirabisi said.
In addition to prevention, Cirabisi said the other most important element in the war on crime is notifying the police of suspicious activity.
“If we don't know about it, we can't address it,” he said. “Calls from the community have made a big impact on us being able to make arrests.”
Since calls are usually made from cell phones, which are often among the items stolen from victims, Cirabisi suggested not canceling a plan immediately after being robbed of a device because they can be tracked by police if left on.
In addition, staying off cell phones when walking around on the street is another safety tip he gave, as thieves target people who seem distracted and vulnerable.
The 114th Precinct meets on the fourth Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. at Riccardo's, located at 21-04 24th Avenue in Astoria.