Crime Blotter

19th Precinct Pauses

In Remembrance of Sept. 11

At about 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 11, approximately 100 police officers from the 19th Precinct-members of both the departing overnight and the arriving daytime shifts-assembled outside their landmark East 67th Street station house to honor their 23 comrades who died at the World Trade Center last year.

The New York Police Department hasn’t changed all that much in the last 12 months. What has changed is the public’s attitude toward it. It’s no secret that some New Yorkers have a tendency to look through cops until they need one. And some Park Avenue matrons have been known to request that police officers who visit their apartments-to take a report after, say, the housekeeper collects her severance pay in the form of the family silver-arrive and depart through the service entrance.

But all that changed one year ago when the station house-like just about every other station house in the city-was deluged by a tidal wave of good will in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. There wasn’t really a protocol for responding to events like Sept. 11, so the neighborly gestures ran the gamut. Children wrote cards and baked cookies. Local grocers sent over fruits and vegetables and cases of bottled water. For a week, the hall outside the office of Howard Lawrence, the 19th Precinct’s commanding officer, was almost impassable; some good Samaritan had sent over, among other things, what looked to be a truckload of watermelons.

The attitude of the public towards the NYPD is, not surprisingly, “far more positive [in terms of] respect for the officers,” observed the 19th Precinct’s community-affairs officer, Detective Steve Petrillo, as he waited for the start of the ceremony.

That recognition and the formidable challenges they face keeping New York safe from future terrorist attacks have also raised the typical cop’s self-esteem. “In a way, you’re representing the nation and protecting the nation,” Detective Petrillo went on, “especially when you’re assigned to a Manhattan precinct. There’s a sense of pride. Each officer has a piece of that law-enforcement puzzle to make sure it works.”

At the same time as the cops were gathering for a moment of silence, a far smaller-but no less moving-contingent of firefighters from Engine Company 39, Ladder 16, the firehouse next-door, were honoring their dead. The firehouse lost two firefighters on Sept. 11.

When their respective ceremonies were over, Deputy Inspector Lawrence huddled with Captain Stephen Redican of the FDNY. “I offered him my condolences,” Inspector Lawrence explained. “I offered our help if they need anything, if they have any services or anything.”

However, as a testament to New York’s resilience-or maybe just the involuntary rush of events that keeps a great city moving forward-within moments, all seemed back to normal. The firefighters sped off to an alarm, and Deputy Inspector Lawrence debriefed his second in command, Captain James Murtagh, on a couple of celebrity funerals held at Frank E. Campbell the day before.

The first was for the former Mayor’s mother, Helen Giuliani, who rated a motorcade of almost Presidential proportions. “It went pretty smoothly,” Captain Murtagh said. “I shut down Madison for about five minutes and off they went to Brooklyn.”

At that same time, mourners were dropping by to pay their respects to Cyrinda Foxe-Tyler, former wife of Steven Tyler, the lead singer for Aerosmith. “They told me Mick Jagger was there in the afternoon,” Captain Murtagh reported.

Swipe Girls Are Back

A couple of years ago, the Upper East Side-or at least its gentlemen residents of a certain age-were victimized by comely female bandits whose modus operandi involved approaching senior citizens on the street, claiming to be a nurse who knew them from the hospital or their doctor’s office (once you hit your 70’s, it’s a fair bet that you’ve spent some time under medical care), and offering them a free therapeutic massage.

If the guys took the bait, inviting the ladies back to their apartments, they usually found the massages to be unsatisfactory and their pockets picked as part of the deal. At least a couple of the lady crooks were arrested back then. On Sept. 3, one perp decided to employ this tried-and-true method of robbery, and paid a visit to the neighborhood.

At 3:30 p.m., the woman pulled her car over to the curb at the northeast corner of Third Avenue and 69th Street where an older gentleman was standing. She pretended to recognize him and offered him a ride. The victim, a 74-year-old East 70th Street resident, accepted her offer and hopped aboard.

On their way home, the suspect-described as a 45-year-old female with straight brown hair and a blotchy complexion, and who went by the name of Erica-patted the victim on his tummy with affectionate familiarity and made comments about his weight. Then she asked him for a business card.

It’s unlikely the request was prompted by a desire to stay in touch after she had dropped off the old man; it undoubtedly had more to do with wanting to learn where he kept his wallet.

The septuagenarian told the police that eventually “he realized he didn’t know the perp and got out of [the] vehicle.” Unfortunately, by that point the damage had been done. After he’d disembarked, he discovered that the young lady (if you’re 74, 45 is young) had helped herself to $160 and a credit card from his front left pants pocket. Shortly afterward, the card was used to make a purchase at an unknown Gap store.

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

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