The Crime Blotter

Man Busts Rhodesian Army Moves, Subdues Rollerblader Raider

Driving in New York City sometimes forces motorists to make not just directional, but existential choices. For example, when you’re heading southbound on the F.D.R. Drive, do you risk exiting at 106th Street, which is probably faster (though perhaps less safe), or do you get off at 96th Street, where you’re almost guaranteed to get caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic?

One middle-aged writer faced this very same dilemma on Feb. 13. He was headed southbound on the F.D.R. at 6:30 p.m., coming back from the airport after a business trip to Washington, D.C., when his cabby decided to get off at 106th Street. The traffic was so light it prompted the writer to remark, “What a fantastic route.” But he was distracted mid-sentence by two men on rollerblades wearing crash helmets, who whizzed past his cab as it was stopped at a red light. The writer was sitting behind the driver with his computer case, containing his Apple Powerbook, on the seat beside him. “He had his door locked, but the other door wasn’t,” explained his wife (who spoke for her husband, who was traveling on assignment).

Once the rollerbladers had passed the cab, the passenger breathed a sigh of relief, said his wife: “It felt weird-they’d come so close to the cab.”

As it turned out, his relief was premature. “You can do quite a fancy turn on rollerblades,” said the wife, who asked that neither her name nor her husband’s be used. “They came back round and opened the passenger-side rear door of the cab.”

The writer’s seat belt was buckled, but loosely enough that he still had room to move-or, rather, to retaliate. His wife confided that her husband has “this bizarre thing” where he holds the seat belt stretched out in front of him. “He can’t stand the way they press you to the back of the seat,” she said.

The writer, who’d served briefly in the Rhodesian army (long enough, apparently, to have learned something of hand-to-hand combat), “lunged across the seat and, with the back of his balled fist, whacked the guy in the face,” related his wife, with understandable pride.

“The guy was so astonished,” his wife said of the would-be thief, “that he lost his balance and fell back-he was like a kind of beetle on his back with his rollerblades in the air. And my husband slammed the door shut and shouted at the driver, ‘Just drive!’ And the driver shot through the red light, and they kept going.

“He was pleased the guy hadn’t got his bag,” concluded the writer’s wife, and then offered this driving tip: “It’s worth proceeding on to 96th Street.”

Con Game Plan B

Who’s the worse crook: the guy who produces a weapon and demands your valuables, or the one who first tries to con you out of your money, and only resorts to physical aggression when the tide turns against him?

At the end of January, a 33-year-old man told the cops that a slightly older gentleman, apparently known to the police as a con artist and extortionist, tried to interest him in a con game as he was walking along 68th Street at Second Avenue. When the victim wouldn’t bite, the con man simply dropped the guise and, using physical force, stole $200 from his victim’s pants pocket. The perp was last seen fleeing the scene in a dark sedan driven by a second suspect.

In a second incident on Feb. 21, a 32-year-old Brooklyn man was walking along 60th Street near Madison Avenue when another pedestrian brushed up against him. Then he heard something fall to the ground.

“You broke my glasses,” said the fellow, described as approximately 20 years old. “You have to pay for my glasses.”

An accomplice, apparently masquerading as an objective witness and pretending to be on his cell phone, also said, “You broke his glasses!”

When the victim declined to pay for the damage, the perp simply reached into his pocket, helped himself to 20 bucks and stated, “I’ll take this for my glasses.”

Both suspects then departed westbound on 60th Street. The victim followed them and spotted them trying to pull the same scam on another victim at 60th and Fifth. He told them he was going to call the cops, which persuaded them to flee eastbound on 60th Street. The cops canvassed the area, but with negative results.

Not So O.K.

Steve Madden-whose shoes are the workhorses of the typical private-school girl’s shoe collection-suffered a grand larceny on Feb. 27. It’s unlikely the perpetrator was a fifth-, sixth- or seventh-grader at Nightingale, Dalton or Brearley.

A store employee told the cops that she went to check on the inventory at the 150 East 86th Street location around noon, when she noticed that the basement storage area had been forced open and 36 pairs of shoes were missing.

She reported that several people have access and keys to the basement. If the incident has left Mr. Madden feeling blue, he may want to recall the saying he’s been known to sign on the side of his adoring preteen customers’ shoe boxes: “The way beyond is through O.K.”-whatever that means.