Halloween seems to be turning into a year-round holiday, at least for crooks. At 2:33 p.m. on Nov. 12, a woman entered the Green Village Market at 1455 Third Avenue armed with a gun and wearing what was described as a “Zorro-type” mask.
A store employee told the police that, in addition to the mask-which was adorned with sparkles, by the way-the 25-to-30-year-old female suspect was also wearing a black jacket, black pants and had her long black hair up in a pony tail. After the two had a brief conversation-in Korean-the suspect demanded money.
When the employee stated that she had no money, the masked crusader rummaged through her handbag-a black one, perhaps-and placed a couple of unspecified items on the counter, before finding what she was really looking for: a red handgun.
The weapon (which the police suspect may have been a fake) had the intended effect nonetheless: The merchant promptly parted with two $5 bills. While that would hardly cover the cost of a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks these days, it nonetheless seemed to appease the perp, who departed northbound on Third Avenue.
The cops placed the store clerk in a patrol car and canvassed the area, with negative results. She was later debriefed by the 19th Precinct detective squad.
There are certain times when “selling swipes”-that quality-of-life crime that involves ushering people through subway turnstiles using a forged, altered or stolen MetroCard and then pocketing their fares-is not such a good idea.
One of those occasions is undoubtedly when a high-ranking police officer-say the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Operations-is in the vicinity. This was the fate that befell two crooks on Nov. 9.
The two were going about their little scam at 3:15 p.m. when NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operations Garry McCarthy paid the 77th Street Lexington Avenue subway station a visit and, upon spotting the suspects selling swipes, promptly arrested them.
Part of the thinking behind quality-of-life arrests is that if you pick up crooks for little crimes, you prevent them from committing bigger ones later on-or, conversely, picking them up may help solve crimes they have committed previously.
That’s what happened in this case: One of the arrestees, a 35-year-old homeless male, had 35 prior arrests, enjoying the distinction of being designated both a transit and a misdemeanor recidivist. And when the cops ran his prints, they matched those lifted from the scene of a prior commercial burglary in the 19th Precinct.
The suspect was rearrested for that crime after being arrested for the current incident and charged with forgery and related crimes. The charges stemmed not only from toying with the turnstiles, but also because when he was arrested, he was found in possession of 10 altered or forged MetroCards. His accomplice, an East 113th Street resident and a mere 14 years old, had eight altered or forged MetroCards and was similarly charged.
For those who enjoy number-crunching, there have been 15 MetroCard forgery arrests at the 77th Street station; five arrests for criminal possession of a forged instrument; and 15 “sale of swipe” arrests this year. The 77th Street station accounted for 10 percent of all such arrests in Transit District 4-whose jurisdiction includes stations along the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 lines, as well as the I.R.T. Flushing line at Grand Central Station, several stops on the B, D, F and Q lines, and a bunch of other stations.
Subway swiping seems to be a popular occupation at the moment. In the month of October alone, there were 650 radio runs for the sale of swipes in Transit District 4.
There are different theories, all of them mine, for the frequency of thefts of mother’s purses from their children’s strollers. The most obvious is that keeping an eye on the baby doesn’t leave much time for watching your wallet. But with that knowledge in mind, wouldn’t any commonsensical mother stow her valuables on her person rather than in her little prince’s or princess’ carriage?
Which leads to other theories. Perhaps some moms don’t have much common sense-an incendiary charge, certainly, but if they did, would they really need to buy all those parenting books?
Another possibility is narcissism: the belief that there’s something sacrosanct about motherhood that protects moms from evildoers. However, if a 35-year-old East 88th Street mother was inclined to feel that way, she was quickly disabused of the notion on Nov. 8 while visiting Gymboree at First Avenue and 88th Street. She told the police that her Visa card as well as $50 in cash had been swiped from her child’s diaper bag at 11:20 a.m.
The card was then used to purchase $167.83 worth of baked goods at Valencia Bakery, located at East 104th Street. Might it have been by a criminally minded mom? The bakery is well known for its pastries and children’s birthday cakes, though $167 buys a lot of frosting. For example, a cake that feeds 25 to 30 people goes for a modest $33.34. Flowers and trim are included but, said a bakery employee, “we charge them extra if they want a cartoon character.”