The Crime Blotter

A Meaningful Glance- And the Jig Is Up

The members of the 19th Precinct Grand Larceny Squad experienced an undeniable frisson of excitement on May 23, when they spotted a pair of pickpockets they’d been after for some time about to board a bus at 86th Street and Second Avenue around 8:30 a.m.

“We knew about these guys; we were looking for them for months,” explained Police Officer Neil Ariano. “They were two male blacks, one tall, one short, doing picks on the Second Avenue and Fifth Avenue bus lines.

“It was a rainy day, a miserable day, and they showed up there,” the cop recalled. “We ran right over to the bus and hopped on. The adrenaline was flowing. We knew it was them.”

Before the bus reached 79th Street, the suspects had moved in on their prey-a little old lady who was preparing to disembark. “The bus was packed, and she was pushing through the crowd,” Officer Ariano continued. “The short guy put his hand towards her pocketbook as if to pick it. They kept constantly looking at each other,” he added, referring to the suspects.

The exchange of meaningful glances is apparently integral to pickpockets’ modus operandi-and is something this reporter witnessed firsthand when his own pocket was picked a couple of years ago on the Lexington Avenue subway. “Pickpockets can’t talk with their partner,” Officer Ariano explained. “They use eye contact. If I look at him and then at you, this guy is a good pick. What they were doing was hitting senior citizens.”

In fact, on this occasion, the suspects didn’t go through with the crime. “Maybe he got spooked,” the cop hypothesized. “Maybe it wasn’t good for him. But that’s still considered a crime. It’s called jostling. When the bus pulled over at 79th and Second, we had enough to arrest these guys. They were about to get off when we pulled our shields out. They were shocked. They said, ‘We didn’t do nothing. What did I do?’”

That evening, the cops summoned to the station house a lady who had called the precinct the previous week to report that she’d seen thieves matching the description of the suspects pickpocketing somebody on the Lexington Avenue bus at 60th Street.

“She came down with five to seven other women who witnessed pickpockets. We had lineups that night. Four of those five to seven [witnesses] picked them out. We went to a grand jury, and both of them were indicted for grand larceny, attempted grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.”

By tracing MetroCards they found in the crooks’ possession through their serial numbers, the cops were able to determine that they’d been purchased with one of the victim’s credit cards.

“They’re going to be in for a while, hopefully,” Officer Ariano said, a prospect of which the prisoners appeared fully aware. “They kept [refusing to be handcuffed] and turning around. These guys didn’t want to go to jail. They knew the jig was up.”

Rescue Me

Apparently New Yorkers aren’t as heartless and self-involved as some people think. A 60-year-old woman approached a jogger on the esplanade overlooking the East River at 64th Street and the F.D.R. Drive on June 3 and handed him a piece of paper containing her daughter’s name, address and phone number. Then she promptly jumped the railing and into the East River.

Whether her opinion of human nature was so jaundiced that she expected the jogger to do nothing to save her is unknown, but he and fellow runners who’d witnessed the incident, which occurred shortly after 7 a.m., found a police call box and called 911.

The cops responded to the scene and spotted the victim floating up, rather than down, the river. The current, influenced by the incoming tide, was such that it carried the woman northward. Two Police Department emergency-service trucks, as well as Fire Department rescue equipment and an NYPD harbor launch, also arrived at the scene.

The launch retrieved the woman from the middle of the river, opposite 92nd Street, her body having floated 30 blocks uptown before she was pulled from the chilly water. Miraculously, the woman was still alive. She was brought to shore and then transported to New York Hospital, where she was treated for hypothermia and given a psychiatric examination.

The jumper, an East 57th Street resident, confirmed for the police, who contacted her daughter, that she was trying to kill herself.

Be My Baby

Anybody who has mustered the courage to enter one of those Madison Avenue children’s clothing stores, such as Bon Point or Jacadi, knows there’s money in togs for tykes. In fact, the price tags on those little velvet dresses, exquisite though they may be, are sufficiently stratospheric that the educated consumer will be forgiven for believing that he-or, more typically, she-has strayed into Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent.

It undoubtedly must have been some of that gold-rush mentality that persuaded a couple of bandits to pay a visit to the Baby Collection, a children’s clothing boutique at 1384 Lexington Avenue, around closing time on May 27.

The perps, a male and a female, knocked on the store’s door and asked to be let in. Once inside, one of them inquired, “Where’s the bigger kids’ clothes?,” prompting the store’s owner to lead them to the rear of the store.

If her suspicions weren’t yet aroused that her customers’ passion for high-priced children’s garments was less pure than that of the average young Park Avenue mother, who has been known to dissolve into gooey rapture at the sight of $150 sundresses for 3-year-olds, they undoubtedly were after one of the malefactors started casing the joint and asked, “What’s behind the door?”

“The bathroom,” the store’s owner answered. However, when she turned around, the male member of the team was wearing gloves and holding a knife-not the most encouraging sign-and ordered her into the bathroom, where he taped his victim’s head and mouth. Then the crooks plundered the store, taking $40 as well as a gold and silver Rolex, a computer, a phone, a fax and-perhaps most valuable of all-multiple items of children’s clothing.

Smoking Prohibited

The job of a U.P.S. delivery man isn’t typically considered among society’s most dangerous. But perhaps such stereotypes need to be revisited in light of an incident in front of 235 East 67th Street on May 22.

Police officers Robert Harrop and Robert Murphy were on routine patrol around 5 p.m. when they were approached by a U.P.S. supervisor, who informed them that he and a co-worker were in the process of delivering several packages when they noticed, to their distress, that one of the boxes, which contained a 16-ounce bottle of hydrochloric acid, was both smoking and leaking.

The Fire Department responded to the scene and removed the suspicious parcel, which was intended for a doctor with an office in the building. Upon being contacted, the physician informed the assembled (and alarmed) U.P.S. and law-enforcement personnel that he was in fact expecting the package, and that hydrochloric acid is used to clean medical equipment.

Which is not to say that the package was as safe as, say, a pair of candlesticks from Michael C. Fina. A description of hydrochloric acid at the Web site of Sigma-Aldrich, a leading chemical company, describes it as harmful and corrosive (which probably goes without saying) and cautions the user to avoid contact with the skin or even inhaling its fumes.

“That can really make you cough,” commented a scientist at Rockefeller University who has used the super-solvent in her own work. “It’s really nasty. It’s probably 37 percent hydrochloric acid, which is very strong. You’d probably dilute it to use it.”

A representative from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection also responded to the scene, declared the area safe and authorized removal of the acid.