Cell Phone Theft a Top Concern for Queens Latinos

Residents of Jackson Heights complained about organized gangs who rob their personal belongings, as well as the increase of prostitution along Roosevelt Avenue. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario-La Prensa)

With the race for Queens Borough President just gearing up, the Latino community is ready to voice their demands to whomever decides to run the borough. Improving street safety and public transportation are their top concerns.

In a series of 22 random interviews with residents of Jackson Heights and Corona, the Queens neighborhoods with the highest number of Latinos, El Diario/La Prensa found that locals consider these two issues most important. Residents hope to see them reflected in the proposals of the candidates running to succeed Helen Marshall, the current BP who will finish her third and final term this year.

Anxiety over robberies, primarily of electronic appliances such as cell phones or tablets, was the most frequently mentioned concern by survey respondents, the majority of whom have lived in the area for less than a decade and demand greater police presence.

“My daughter’s cell phone was snatched out of her hands at the Jackson Heights station two months ago, and although nothing happened to her, she is still afraid to ride the train,” said homemaker Ramona Hernández.

Numerous Jackson Heights residents spoke out about the presence of organized gangs who take advantage of people along main avenues, at train stations, and businesses in the area in order to steal personal belongings.

They were also troubled by the rise in “tocones” [gropers] and the spread of prostitution along Roosevelt Avenue, which continues to be a huge problem.

“There are prostitution rings all over and men that hand out flyers with pictures of naked women,” said Maximino Delgado, who is currently unemployed. “They attract very bad people at night and it makes me feel uncomfortable when I take a stroll with my family.

Many locals also complained about how frustrating it is to get to work due to overcrowding and the unreliability of the subway and bus lines.

“Riding the 7 train during rush hour is an ordeal I don’t wish on anybody,” said Ronaldo Pérez, who travels from Corona to Manhattan six days a week to work as a waiter. “You can’t enter the subway cars because they’re so full, there aren’t enough trains, and they make a lot of service cuts due to repairs, which is what’s been happening on the weekends throughout the entire winter.”

Those who ride the bus criticized the lack of routes to cover all the neighborhoods, especially where the subway doesn’t reach. Likewise, they complained that the buses never stick to the schedule, and nobody does anything to fix it.

Many of these concerns coincide with the reasons for the launch of a revitalization plan for Roosevelt Avenue, recently announced by Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras.

That initiative includes installing police department security cameras, improving lighting along sidewalks, optimizing garbage collection, as well as commercial rezoning to help established businesses, while simultaneously reducing the amount of sales taking place on the street.

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