To Perps, FedEx Truck Is
Grab Bag on Wheels
One perennially popular and generally not-too-risky form of theft involves crooks following a Federal Express or U.P.S. truck. “They’ll pull up behind or in front of the FedEx truck, and they’ll watch the FedEx driver as he’s making his deliveries,” explained Deputy Inspector Howard Lawrence, the 19th Precinct’s commanding officer. “One of them will grab a package and take off and hope the driver runs after him, abandoning the truck. And then it’s a free-for-all in the truck. It’s a grab bag. Whatever they get, they get.”
Deputy Inspector Lawrence wasn’t speaking hypothetically, but of an incident that occurred on Aug. 24, though it never reached the free-for-all stage, thanks to the perspicacity of one Federal Express employee.
“The FedEx driver was sharp,” said Deputy Inspector Lawrence, adding that the worker spotted a suspicious-looking red Dodge Caravan following him around on East 67th Street shortly after 4 p.m. “He saw what was developing and wrote down the plate number of the van.
“The only trouble,” Deputy Inspector Lawrence continued, “is the people in the van saw him writing down the plate number.”
They followed the FedEx driver to his next destination-69th Street between Fifth and Madison avenues-pulled up in front of him when he stopped his truck, and confronted him.
“They demand the piece of paper and chase him at knifepoint,” the inspector said. “A doorman called the police. They were running circles around the doorman. Then these guys get in the van and take off.”
Based on the doorman’s description, 19th Precinct police officers Mike Adler and Mark Morales, on routine patrol in the neighborhood, spotted the van and followed it into Central Park.
If there’s anything that boosts cop morale (besides a pay raise) and reinforces that all-important sense of NYPD unity, it’s a good arrest that involves several different precincts working in tandem. That’s what happened next.
Cops from the 19th, Central Park and 20th precincts, hearing the job come over their police radios, joined the pursuit. Even Deputy Inspector Lawrence and Captain James Murtagh, the 19th Precinct’s second-in-command, jumped into the inspector’s car and proceeded through the 66th Street transverse to Central Park West, where the action was going down.
“The [suspects] are jumping out of the car,” Deputy Inspector Lawrence reported. “It comes to rest at 66th Street and Broadway. Adler and Morales get the driver of the van at that location.”
After a spirited foot chase, three additional perps were apprehended in the vicinity of 66th and Broadway and positively identified.
While no merchandise or weapons were found in the van, a Pennsylvania license plate was discovered under the front seat of the vehicle, which was sporting New Jersey tags. “One of the suspects had seven or eight previous arrests for truck burglaries,” Deputy Inspector Lawrence reported.
Two of the perps hailed from West 96th Street, one from Ozone Park and one from Jackson Heights. All were charged with attempted robbery.
It’s all well and good to be able to tell the difference between a real and a counterfeit $20 bill. Unfortunately, an educated eye is its only reward-unless you spot the fake while its purveyors are still on the premises, as the manager of the OK Falafel House, a restaurant at 1752 Second Avenue, discovered on Aug. 16.
Upon the arrival of the cops in response to a radio call at 8:40 p.m., the manager presented them with two counterfeit $20 bills and explained that they’d been presented as payment (whether for falafel or some other Middle Eastern specialty, the crime report didn’t specify) by two men who had recently enjoyed dinner at the restaurant.
There frankly wasn’t much the cops could do, except safeguard the evidence and canvass the area. The search turned out negative, since by that point the perps-both of whom were described as stocky (undoubtedly from eating for free off other fake $20 bills)-were long gone.
Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.