Freedom is Confusing For Artistic Foreigners

If you’ve ever visited a former Communist republic, you know that graffiti can be a problem. It’s as if, after all those years of stifled creative expression, it explodes all over the place from the nozzle of a spray-paint can.

And while free expression (if not vandalism) is to be encouraged, we’d prefer its practitioners save their energy for their own homelands rather than inflict it on ours, as one 15-year-old Moldovan youth did on Jan. 14.

The police spotted the suspect making graffiti at several locations, including in front of 1435 First Avenue, where they tried to apprehend him at 1:50 a.m. But rather than surrender quietly, the teenager tried to flee the scene. In the process, he ran into a police officer, causing him to fall to the sidewalk and injure his back, wrist and ankle.

The downed officer’s partner then tried to stop the perp, who allegedly swung at him twice with a closed fist. After a brief struggle, the cop apprehended the vandal. But there was to be no arrest—for making graffiti, resisting arrest or anything else. The suspect, whose home address is the same as the Moldovan mission to the United Nations, claimed diplomatic immunity.

Nice and Naughty

It’s conventional wisdom that honey will catch more bees (or is it bears—or flies?) than vinegar. But that doesn’t always apply, at least when it comes to robbery and your victims expect you to show a little spine.

The relative merits of each approach were apparent in two recent Upper East Side holdups. On Jan. 22, a couple of well-mannered villains visited Pizza Mia, a restaurant at 1163 Second Avenue, shortly after midnight. One of the men acted as if he was going to order a pizza—a charade that ceased as soon as he produced a black gun with a wooden handle. But despite the weapon’s antisocial appearance, the perp couldn’t have been more sympathetic.

As the accomplice stood silently behind him, he stated, “Calm down. I want to get out of here quicker than you want me out.”

His approach worked. A female working behind the counter forked over $480, and the perps fled westbound on 61st Street, jumping into a gray (or silver) Honda (or Toyota). The police conducted a canvass of the area, with negative results.

In a decidedly more roughhewn robbery a day earlier, three criminals visited the D’Agostino’s at 1074 Lexington Avenue. While one of them waited outside as a lookout, the other two entered the supermarket, displayed their weapons—one a revolver, the other a semi-automatic—and ordered employees and customers alike onto the ground.

In fact, when a new customer unwittingly entered the store in the middle of the incident, which occurred around 10 p.m., one of the suspects hit him in the forehead with his gun and then ordered him onto the ground as well. The perps also confiscated eight cell phones belonging to both customers and employees—presumably not for their resale value, but to prevent them from calling 911 or surreptitiously taking their photos for future reference.

But the real purpose of their visit was to plunder the supermarket’s safe. “I ain’t playing games—open the safe or I’m going to shoot you,” one of the bad guys warned the manager. After receiving an undetermined amount of money, which they deposited in a black-and-gray book bag, the unfriendly crooks fled southbound on Lexington Avenue and then westbound on 75th Street with the cash and cell phones.

Harried Mommies

The pattern of thieves stealing unsuspecting mothers’ wallets from their baby strollers continues unabated. For example, on Jan. 18, a 29-year-old East 74th Street resident told the police that she had last seen her pocketbook hooked to her child’s stroller around noon, as she walked uptown on Second Avenue.

However, when she needed it, she discovered that it was gone, even though she has no recollection of seeing or feeling anything suspicious. And the bag constituted something of a haul, especially if you’re into designer labels. The bag itself was a Louis Vuitton, worth $250; inside was an $800 black-and-tan Tod’s pocketbook containing a $300 Prada wallet. The thief also absconded with the woman’s iPod.

To prevent such unpleasantness in the future, the 19th Precinct’s crime-prevention office has published some advice to prevent distracted mothers from becoming the victims of pickpockets. The suggestions include never leaving your wallet inside a diaper bag or hanging from your stroller, as well as never leaving the stroller itself unattended, even for a minute. This may present something of a challenge, especially for today’s overprotective parents, constantly hovering over their offspring. But if you keep your purse on your person, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Next, minimize the number of credit cards you schlep around. Ask yourself: Must I really have my Barneys credit card on me at all times?

If you observe someone suspicious—someone who doesn’t look at all like a person you’d include in your mothers’ group, and who happens to be loitering in your vicinity and taking an unnaturally keen interest in your activities—don’t keep it to yourself; inform the management.

Finally, be aware when someone approaches your stroller and engages you in conversation or tries to play with your baby or toddler. We all know he’s extremely cute and gifted, but, as difficult as it may be to accept, there are some lowlifes out there who are more interested in your debit card than they are in your baby’s sponge-like fascination with his environment. Making a fuss over your infant is a common—and frequently successful—ploy to separate you from your property.