Hold Tight, Young Moms: New Spate of Stroller Crimes

The preying by craven perps upon distracted young mothers pushing strollers continues unabated. On Jan. 6 at 6 p.m., a 30-year-old East 87th Street resident was shopping in Gristede’s with her newborn when her wallet, heretofore in the pocket of her stroller, mysteriously vanished.

The victim claimed not to have seen anything suspicious and said she had never left the baby carriage unattended. Nonetheless, her purse disappeared, its credit cards employed to great effect shortly afterward at both Kenneth Cole and Starbucks. The supermarket has security cameras, but in a moment of unvarnished candor (or perhaps abject despair), the mother said the Gristede’s manager told her the cameras “wouldn’t help.” In addition to her credit cards, the wallet contained $60 in cash and a Metropolitan Museum membership card.

A similar incident of what one might describe as “mother-with-stroller property crime” occurred at Craft Studio, 1657 Third Avenue, one hour earlier on the same day, Jan. 6. A 32-year-old Riverside Drive resident had taken her daughter to a birthday party at the studio, where children can paint terra-cotta planters or decorate their very own chocolate house with sweets.

In such a charmed setting, it’s easy to understand how a parent would let down her guard, as this woman apparently did, placing her pocketbook by the coat rack in the front of the store.

When the party was over and she and her dependent were departing (craft project in hand, no doubt), she discovered that her wallet had been removed from her pocketbook. She promptly called her credit-card company but learned that her plastic had already been used to purchase items at the Duane Reade drug store at 94th Street and Third Avenue and at Metro Food store. Also taken were $40 in cash and a $100 Gap gift card.

Botox Headache

The New York Headache Center, located at 30 East 76th Street, received something of a financial migraine on Jan. 6 when 16 vials of Botox, valued at $7,168, disappeared from a storage room in the facility’s office. The Headache Center’s director, Dr. Alexander Mauskop, and his colleagues use the Botox not to remove wrinkles or restore one’s youth, but to treat their patients’ killer headaches. The injections are delivered where migraine patients need it most, usually in the back of the head, according to Dr. Mauskop, who is also the co-author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Migraines.

Vials of the miracle drug (originally developed as a biological weapon) were delivered to the center by Federal Express on Jan. 4. They were promptly placed in the storage area and chilled with dry ice, à la Dom Perignon, to retain their efficacy. The Botox was last seen on Jan. 6 and discovered missing the following day. There were no signs of forced entry. The building has a 24-hour doorman.

Crime Statistics ’04

Crime has declined steeply throughout the city in recent years. Last year, the figures went down another 2 percent, despite a spike in reported robberies and rapes. On the Upper East Side, the number of robberies also jumped. The reason for this, explained the 19th Precinct’s Inspector James Rogers, was due to the fact that shoplifting incidents have been increasingly escalating to robberies due to certain proactive employees deciding to mix it up with the perps.

For example, the perp who takes a pack of Juicy Fruit and brandishes a hypodermic needle to stave off capture: At that point, “it escalates into a robbery,” said Inspector Rogers. To bring the numbers down and ensure public safety, Inspector Rogers said the police were trying to persuade store workers not to act like local heroes and await the arrival of the cops. He added that while robberies were up in 2004, so were robbery arrests: 14 percent over 2003.

Rapes were up 87.5 percent-15 in 2004 compared to eight in 2003. But of those 15, only two were “stranger rapes,” perpetrated by an individual unknown to the victim. Both those criminals were apprehended.

Inspector Rogers said that as crime continues to decline, it gets harder to whittle the numbers further. “You’re fighting last year’s success,” he explained. “What we did last year you have to replicate and do something else.”

One of those innovations is aimed at the aforementioned stroller thefts. “I think people actually specialize in that,” the cop observed. One strategy they’re now using involves an undercover cop pushing a stroller with a fake baby in it. “We’re going to do more of that this year.”

Inspector Rogers, who recently became a father for the third time, joked that to guarantee the authenticity of the sting, he’d consider a ploy analogous to the exploding dye packets that banks hide among the bills they give bank robbers: the dirty diaper in the stroller. “I have a few I can bring in,” he said.