Crime Blotter

Hoping to Hit the Jackpot,

Thief Takes Phone Home

Have pay phones become obsolete in an era when everyone seems to have a cell phone? Apparently not. Just ask the crook the cops arrested on Feb. 6. The fellow caught the eye-and how could he have not?-of Lisa Moran, a plain-clothes officer with the 19th Precinct anti-crime unit, as he attempted to rob a pay phone at the northeast corner of 85th Street and Second Avenue.

What made him noticeable wasn’t just the early hour (the incident occurred at 4:40 a.m., when there aren’t a lot of people around), but also his modus operandi. Rather than trying to fish the money out of the phone using a wire-standard procedure among telephone vandals-this guy decided that it was easier to take the entire pay phone.

Apparently the thief, by pushing a tool into the change slot, could tell how much money was inside. “That’s how he targeted the phones,” explained a cop familiar with the case. That was the easy part, however. The crook then had the arduous task of de-installation before him. Using a crowbar, he uprooted the whole kit and caboodle from its moorings and deposited it into a shopping cart. He was just about to flee the scene when Officer Moran moved in and arrested him for grand larceny and possession of burglar’s tools.

Verizon security, when contacted by the police, weren’t unfamiliar with the man. As a matter of fact, following the arrest, the cops allegedly found six more pay phones in his home. “The guy takes the whole phone home,” explained a police officer, “and breaks open the cash box.”

Polo Before Sunrise

Using another nontraditional method of robbery-but with greater success-an unknown perp visited Polo Ralph Lauren, at 888 Madison Avenue, on Jan. 29. However, he eschewed the standard shoplifting approach, deciding rather to drop by when he could have the store all to himself.

This crook arrived at 6:03 a.m., forced his way into the store, helped himself to some of that great-though not necessarily economically priced-Polo merchandise, and vanished as lightly as he had arrived. Given his efforts, and the abundance of tempting merchandise to be found at the flagship store, it’s a wonder that greed didn’t get the better of the crook. His haul was relatively modest, including three sweaters valued at $900, three brown leather jackets worth $2,500, and three suede coats worth $3,900.

The thief broke in with such finesse that the front-door lock wasn’t damaged, though the door itself sustained some minor injuries. The alarm was also tripped, and security cameras caught the perp, who was described as six feet, 210 pounds and approximately 32 years old. The case remains under investigation.

This Is No Game, Boy

As of Feb. 8, the list of things you ought to hide from crooks on the subway has grown from wallets, pocketbooks and gold chains to include Game Boys. A 24-year-old man was on his way home to the Bronx on the uptown No. 4 train at around 3 a.m. when a quartet of thugs (or two couples on a double date, depending on your point of view) spotted him passing the time with his Game Boy.

Rather than pleasantly asking him his score, however, one of the males placed a firearm to his right temple and stated, “Give me the game or I’ll put a bullet in your head.”

This would probably have been enough to get most people to surrender the toy, as addictive as Game Boys can be. But our hero refused. So the second male perp began striking him on the head and face as their girlfriends looked on. Moments later, all four combined their efforts and pushed the man onto the floor, where they continued to hit him until they managed to separate him from his game and, for good measure, his wallet.

Their mission accomplished, the crew then pushed the victim off the train at the 68th Street station. Perhaps they assumed he was too injured or traumatized to stand, let alone report the incident. But it’s more likely they just weren’t all that smart-because, rather than fleeing themselves, they stayed on the train all the way to 125th Street.

In the meantime, their victim approached the station agent and reported the incident. At approximately 3:27 a.m., cops assigned to the 28th Precinct spotted the four, walking westbound on 125th Street.

The officers questioned and frisked the suspects, and then asked the cops back at the 68th Street station to transport the victim uptown. They did so, and a “showup” was conducted with extremely positive results.

Dispelling any possible doubts-say, perhaps, that the victim was confused from the altercation and misidentified his attackers-the police recovered a firearm and observed the Game Boy itself in the hands of one of the females, 17.

All four suspects were charged with robbery.

Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at rgard135@aol.com.