Shoplifters of Manhattan Unite And Take Over Upper East Side

The holiday shopping season may be off to a sluggish start … but the holiday shoplifting season is going gangbusters. On Nov. 29, three women visited Banana Republic’s store at 1136 Madison Avenue and helped themselves to enough merchandise to Secret Santa their whole neighborhood or, more likely, set up shop on the street.

The ladies absconded with 12 pink floral-design cardigans valued at $936 and an equal number of yellow ones. What made the 6:45 p.m. theft noteworthy was its chutzpah: They filched the garments from some of the most eyeballed Manhattan retail space north of Bloomingdale’s-the store’s Madison Avenue and 85th Street front window.

An employee discovered the theft after he noticed that the window display looked somewhat less festive, or at least less well-stocked, than he recalled. He went back and examined the security video, observing the perps-a female in her early 30′s and two women in their early 20′s-removing the property and placing it into a large white shopping bag.

Three days later, on Dec. 2, employees at the Banana Republic store at 1110 Third Avenue discovered a theft in the same way, after noticing merchandise missing from a display. They too went to the videotape and spotted two women removing items and placing them in a black Club Monaco bag. Their haul included 20 shirts valued at $960 and 10 scarves worth $380.

Polo Player

And then there are those shoplifters who may not be seasoned professionals, but who get caught up in the spirit of the season nonetheless. Such seems to be the case with a messenger who visited Polo’s Beaux-Art mansion flagship store at 867 Madison Avenue on Nov. 29.

He made his delivery but then, while the employee who accepted the package was distracted helping a customer, swiped an unattended bag and placed it in his messenger bag.

What he apparently didn’t consider before doing so was that it would require little effort to track him back to the messenger service that employed him; Polo apparently did just that. So the cops now know his name and address. Whether or not his arrest is imminent, one suspects that his Christmas bonus is undergoing scrutiny.

Best Buy, No Pay

And then there’s yet another way to shoplift during this festive time of year-brute force. Which is probably the only way to go at Best Buy, 1280 Lexington Avenue, considering that the electronics retailer has what amounts to an N.F.L. front line of customer-service representatives at the entrances who are eager both to answer shoppers’ queries and to block the exits when a shoplifter makes a break for daylight.

Such was the case on Dec. 3, when a 27-year-old male visited the store at 11:30 a.m. and tried to make a purchase using two credit cards that didn’t match his ID. When an employee brought the discrepancy to his attention, the man grabbed his plastic back and tried to flee the scene. Of course, he was intercepted and detained on the main floor by those aforementioned tumblers.

Unfortunately, Best Buy’s linebackers are better versed at directing you to the nearest plasma-TV deal than in the care and custody of prisoners-as soon as he got the chance, the fraudster made a run for it, pushing over a customer in the process and barging past police officers standing outside the store.

However, the perp didn’t manage to get too far; Perry Kantor, a veteran 19th Precinct police officer, apprehended the man on Third Avenue, between 87th and 88th streets. A search of the suspect displayed pockets that could only be described as decorated for the holidays: On his person they found four credit cards, a Maryland driver’s license, three American Express traveler’s checks and 23 $100 Amex gift checks.

Safe Lifter

If you’re a restaurateur, the last thing you want to see when you show up for work in the morning is that your restaurant’s already open-especially if you don’t serve breakfast. That’s the situation an employee at Due, the Italian restaurant at 1396 Third Avenue, encountered at 8 a.m. on Nov. 25.

He noticed the front door slightly ajar and, what’s worse, the office door in the basement pried open. He soon discovered why: Overnight, two of the restaurants’ safes had seemingly sprouted wings and flown off-a rather impressive feat, since one of them weighed 200 pounds and contained approximately $10,000. A smaller 20-pound safe was also missing. Curiously, nothing else was taken; the cash register wasn’t even disturbed.

While the restaurant doesn’t have a security camera, the cops are hoping to get leads from a store camera at Essentials, a hair salon at 1392 Third Avenue; the camera covers the sidewalk in front of both establishments and might have caught the safes-and their potentially herniated handlers-leaving the scene.