Today’s news:

Crime inches up at the 60th

Nearly halfway through 2008, crime in the 60th Precinct is up a modest six percent from its levels of 2007.

Most of this crime has been driven by an increase in burglaries and felonious assaults, which are up 21 and 20 percent, respectively.

There have been 75 burglaries this year compared to 62 last year at this time; there have been 126 felonious assaults, compared to 105 at this point in 2007.

Addressing the uptick in these categories, Deputy Inspector Robert Johnsen, the precinct’s commanding officer, said, “There’s no simple explanation. There’s no pattern or trends. Yes, we’re spiking right now, but we’re also making a lot of arrests.”

On the positive side of the ledger, car thefts are down 27 percent from their 2007 levels: there have been 43 car thefts so far this year, compared to 59 at this time last year.

Johnsen attributed the decline to computerized license plate reading technology the NYPD adopted at this time last year.

The technology relies on mounted cameras on police vehicles that read license plate numbers as they drive by on the street. These plate numbers are instantly entered into an electronic database to see if they match cars reported as stolen.

Citywide, the program has helped contribute to an eight percent drop in auto thefts, the biggest decrease in any category except burglaries, which are down nine percent.

In terms of other crimes in the 60th Precinct, there have been seven rapes this year, compared to three at this time last year.

Johnsen said all of the suspects in these rapes have been arrested, adding that police believe them all to be acquaintances of their victims.

With the heart of beach season approaching, Johnsen cautioned beach-goers to be extra-mindful of their personal belongings. Historically, the summer has seen an increase in thefts on Brighton Beach and Coney Island, which are covered by the 60th Precinct.

“We want everybody to have a good time, but be careful – take care of your stuff. There are career criminals out there who are opportunists,” he warned.

Johnson added that identity theft has become more of a problem in recent years, and advised people to take steps to prevent it.

“If you don’t need a credit card at the beach, don’t bring one,” he advised.

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