Thieves Make Sport Of Victims’ Workouts
Health-club memberships are expensive enough that no one should also have to suffer the indignity of having a wallet stolen from her locker while she’s working out. But that’s what happened to seven female members of the New York Sports Club at 151 East 86th Street on July 17. Unfortunately, it was just the first lap of a crime marathon affecting all seven women.
While the ladies were off working up a sweat on their Stairmasters, an unknown perpetrator-but obviously a female one, since a guy would have attracted unwanted attention loitering in the ladies’ locker room (a male thief ripped off a male member’s silver Rolex at the club on July 14, but that’s a whole other story)-broke the locks on their lockers, either by cutting them or picking them (the cops aren’t sure which, since the perp had the foresight to take the locks with her), and helped herself to their possessions.
All the incidents occurred within a two-hour period, the first one at 3 p.m., when the perp stole $80, a museum membership card, house keys and a $30 MetroCard from a 40-year-old East 86th Street resident.
That theft was followed by another an hour and a half later, when a 27-year-old woman returned to her locker to discover $40 and her ATM card missing. The thief’s period of peak productivity started at 5:15 p.m.: In the next half hour she broke into five lockers, helping herself to more than $200 in cash as well as credit cards, an umbrella, a checkbook, a $700 Movado watch, two gold rings, a Sprint cell phone, three pairs of eyeglasses, a food log and what one member described as a “one-touch glucose-meter LifeScale,” apparently to measure her blood sugar.
What made the crimes especially bold-it would be fair to say that rip-offs at health-club locker rooms are not uncommon-is that all the victims later received phone calls from con men who introduced themselves as police officers in the fraud division and asked for their birthdates, Social Security numbers and credit-card P.I.N.’s. The crooks were apparently extremely persuasive-each and every woman provided the information they were asked for.
The 19th Precinct is investigating the thefts. Meanwhile, Police Officer Daniel Badillo, the precinct’s crime-prevention officer, has these helpful tips for health-club devotees:
1) Minimize the amount of money and credit cards you carry and keep your baubles, watches, etc., well hidden.
2) Don’t leave pocketbooks and gym bags unattended-not even for one minute.
3) As much as you may think of your health club as a home away from home, leave items like cameras, laptop computers, valuable papers, etc., at your real home.
4) If you observe anyone hanging around your locker room or the stairwells whose top priority seems to be something other than a strenuous workout, you might want to bring them to the attention of club personnel.
5) Finally, play cub reporter. If somebody strikes you as fishy, try to commit their description to memory and also make note of any telltale mannerisms or physical characteristics. This may help the cops apprehend them.
In the Pocket
Auxiliary police officers tend to be police buffs as well as Good Samaritans. But that doesn’t mean they’re any more immune to crime than the average Joe, as an auxiliary sergeant in the 18th Precinct discovered on July 7.
The action was actually picked up at approximately 10:30 a.m. at 59th Street and Third Avenue, when plainclothes police officers assigned to the 19th Precinct’s anti-crime unit spotted a fellow who struck them as suspicious. They disembarked from the unmarked vehicle in which they were patrolling the Upper East Side and decided to follow him.
Sure enough, about 15 minutes later they watched as their man picked the pocket of the aforementioned auxiliary cop, who was off-duty and out of uniform at the time (it’s debatable how much auxiliaries do to prevent crime, but one suspects that even the cheekiest crook wouldn’t try and rob one when he’s in uniform). A spirited foot pursuit ensued, with the members of the anti-crime unit putting a description of the pickpocket over the division radio.
He fled southbound on Second Avenue and then west on 56th Street toward Third Avenue. The cops caught up with him and arrested him at the southwest corner of 55th Street and Third. The perp had had the foresight to dump the evidence of his crime-the cop’s wallet, as well as his ID and handsome auxiliary police officer’s shield-under a car. But fortunately, the cops found them.
A show-up was conducted on the scene. The victim-whose training undoubtedly included the swift and accurate description of criminals to help his NYPD brethren collar them-positively identified his assailant, a 36-year-old Brooklyn man who was charged with grand larceny.