A burglar who impersonates a repair man better darn well make sure something is broken. Otherwise, he might meet the fate of the perp who managed to arouse the suspicions of his intended victim and the police on May 11.
Members of the 19th Precinct Community Policing Unit spotted the alleged thief knocking on the front door of Fresh, that elegant, minimalist soap, fragrance and scented-candle boutique at 1061 Madison Avenue, shortly after 8 a.m. When a store employee responded to the door, the suspect stated, “Buzz me in. I’m here to fix the tiles.”
Only problem was, the tiles didn’t need fixing. And Fresh is one of those emporiums where if even a flaxen strand of an employee’s hair is out of place, the whole effect is destroyed, so the claim that the tiles were less than pristine apparently rang false.
A store worker told the suspect as much, provoking him to curse out the sales assistant and a co-worker and then walk away. The cops, who knew there was a burglar plundering the area using a similar handyman ruse, decided to follow him.
About 20 minutes later, the suspected crook visited a company called Cipher Investment Management, several doors south of Fresh. In this case, he was slightly more successful than he had been at the previous location. At least he managed to gain entry to the organization’s second-floor suite of offices, using the explanation that he was a “cable man.” The police arrested him as he was trying to leave, though apparently without any property.
On May 1, a burglar who police suspect was the same man-a 37-year-old East 150th Street resident-had visited Hair by Kasia at 1321 Madison Avenue and stated that he was “here to fix the pipes that are leaking,” according to the police. He then went to a closet door and looked inside. But his success was less than complete at the hair salon, too. The pipes weren’t broken, and an employee gave him the bum’s rush.
The police, who said they found the stem of a crack pipe when they arrested the suspect, believe he may be responsible for eight or more burglaries or attempted burglaries-seven in the 19th Precinct and one in the 17th Precinct.
“The squad did some lineups and got some positive hits on the lineups,” reported Captain Howard Lawrence, the 19th Precinct’s commanding officer. “The arresting officers did a real nice job.”
A somewhat more sophisticated crook visited Wolf Camera, at 1191 Third Avenue, on May 9. The perp informed a salesman that he’d been appointed to videotape a friend’s wedding and needed a camera.
The salesman, apparently disarmed by the charm of his customer’s mission, opened up a display case and removed a $1,699 camcorder, handing it to the client.
The matrimonial filmmaker then asked about the merits of another camera, and the trusting salesman left for the stockroom to retrieve one without locking the first camera back up. When he returned, both his customer and the store’s camera had disappeared. They were last seen fleeing northbound on Third Avenue.
There are those, this reporter included, who consider bottled water something of a fad. But few indulge their doubts to the extent of the customer who visited the River East Deli, at 1320 York Avenue, on May 10.
The suspect walked up to the counter with a bottle of water, paid for it and departed. But a few minutes later he was back, claiming the water was “counterfeit” and demanding his money back, according to the police.
Chances are he was simply employing a ruse rather than being blessed, or rather tormented, with an exquisitely sensitive palate. Because as soon as the cashier opened the register to give him his money back-this after a brief argument between the two over the meaning of “authentic” when it comes to bottled water-the crook reached in and grabbed all the cash.
The deli worker tried unsuccessfully both to close the door and prevent the thief from departing. But the crook managed to make his escape and jump into a waiting black four-door sedan before fleeing northbound on York Avenue.
Lock Him Up
Garage burglaries are a perennial problem on the Upper East Side, what with the typical garage looking like a luxury-car showroom. But one heads-up attendant managed to thwart a robbery on May 14 by doing something novel in its simplicity-he lowered the gate and scrammed, preventing a visiting car thief from departing with one of the garage’s vehicles.
The incident started when the bandit arrived at the garage, located at 200 East 90th Street, around 7 p.m. and displayed a handgun in his waistband. “Don’t be stupid,” the crook advised the attendant, and then helped himself to a green Ford Explorer.
When the bandit was inside the car, the garage employee shrewdly closed the gate to the ramp, then fled from the garage into an adjoining apartment building and called 911. When he returned to the garage a short while later, the thief had departed, but empty-handed. The Explorer remained, as did a 1998 BMW whose door the crook had opened, apparently while debating which set of wheels to steal.