On Wednesday, January 18, at the Immaculate Conception Church at 21-47 29th Street, Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr., self-defense expert and immigration attorney Antonio Meloni, police officers and nearly 120 community residents attended a meeting to discuss self defense and crime prevention tips.
Attendees were advised to stay aware of their surroundings, which is difficult to do while chatting on a cell phone, locking and reenforcing house doors and windows, and to be weary of thieves' tricks, such as pretending to change a tire.
“The first line of defense starts with you," Vallone said. "It’s important to remember that there are plenty of resources and options to fight and prevent crime and stay safe. If you see something, make sure to say something by calling 911.
“If something is telling you that what you’re witnessing is not right, follow your instinct, and make the call," he added.
Police officers at the meeting also discussed a Security Survey Program.
The confidential security survey allows residents to call the NYPD to inspect their home or business for possible security improvements. Meloni said the survey is especially helpful for new residents.
“We all don’t realize how vulnerable our homes are,” he said. “A lot of burglaries happen very simply because someone goes through an open window, fire escape or kicks your door in. It will take less than five minutes.”
In response to a recent attack by a cab driver on an intoxicated woman in Astoria, Vallone warned against taking taxis while under the influence.
“People think that they will get in the cab and get home safe, but that is not always the case,” he said. “If you take a cab while intoxicated, cabbies can rob or rape.”
He added, “if you put someone in a cab, make sure to get his or her license number or number in front of the cab.”
Meloni presented three ways in which the community can volunteer with the NYPD: auxiliary patrol, which assists local police commanders in non-enforcement and non-hazardous duties; the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which trains community-based volunteers in disaster preparedness and emergency response disaster; and the neighborhood watch.
Vallone discussed a need for a neighborhood watch, a program he is working to establish with the NYPD and Astoria residents.
“They are community members who work with the Police Department,” he said. “We haven’t had this here in 20 or 30 years, but the most recent crime wave throughout the city shows me we need one.”
Free self-defense classes for women are offered at the Tightan Gym on 31st Street and Broadway. The classes started January 11 and will run through February 15. Participants are encouraged to register online first at Tightan.com.
“It is always good to get good information, it is important to stay aware, not being on your cell phone, pay attention to your surroundings, being confident,” said Long Island City resident Maria Zic of why she attended the meeting. “All things that are common sense, but I heard in this meeting again and again, and realize the importance of it.”
Another attendee, who took notes during the meeting, explained what he learned from it.
“I came [to the meeting] because I wanted to become more aware about how to protect myself,” said Long Island City resident Robert Rodriguez. “The things that became obvious to me in this meeting are that I need to work on being more aware of my surroundings, that I am often busy on my phone or thinking about something else. I am not really aware of what’s going on around me.”