Can’t Run, Can’t Hide
Visibly pregnant perps-like, for example, the one collared by the cops on Feb. 3-enjoy at least one distinct advantage over criminals who aren’t in a family way: They’re unlikely to be objects of suspicion. Since motherhood tends to be associated with godliness, a pregnant woman is hardly the first person-or even the second or third-you’d suspect of committing a crime, leading one to believe that her condition might make it more tempting for her to do so.
On the other hand, there are downsides to being a knocked-up suspect. It’s easier for your victims to give your description to the cops, for example, and you’re certainly more noticeable on the street. Furthermore, should a chase ensue, you’re probably not going to display the breakaway speed you may have possessed when you were only eating for one.
For all these reasons, the police managed-without breaking a sweat-to arrest a 17-year-old Brooklyn girl who was eight months pregnant. She’d been recognized by employees of an East 85th Street doctor’s office, where she and several accomplices allegedly had stolen property on Jan. 30. When she returned to the office on the morning of Feb. 3, the employees wasted no time in calling 911.
“A witness identified her as being in a group that allegedly stole a wallet,” explained Police Officer Joseph Cotugno, who-along with his partner, Police Officer Perry Kantor-arrested the suspect. “They go in and create confusion,” said Officer Cotugno, describing the gang’s modus operandi. “One wants a bathroom; the other needs a tissue.”
The wallet contained $200 and credit cards. “We responded to a radio run for a perp from a past crime,” Officer Cotugno continued.
The cops believe the young woman may have been involved in as many as 10 other cases as part of a team that stole from doctors’ offices and stores. Officer Cotugno said that when the teenager (who was arrested for grand larceny) was stopped, she was carrying “some items that did not belong to her,” including forms of ID. “We stopped her at 84th Street and Third Avenue. I can’t believe she’s actually pregnant-we thought it was fake,” he said, referring to her large belly.
However, the slow-motion way in which the perp tried to elude her captors convinced them that her physical condition was very much for real. Officer Cotugno, while acknowledging that the arrest was a good one, confessed it involved little, if any, pursuit.
Not being able to speak English is sometimes an obstacle to getting ahead in American society. But it may have helped a couple of overnight cleaners at E.J.’s Luncheonette, 1271 Third Avenue, to thwart a robbery on Jan. 20.
The restaurant’s manager got a call from his alarm company at around 1 a.m. and responded to the popular Upper East Side diner, which is known for its retro décor. As soon as he arrived, the manager realized that something was wrong: His workers were nowhere to be seen, and the office appeared to have been vandalized.
He called 911, and responding officers promptly solved the mystery of his missing employees: They’d been locked in the fridge.
After being liberated-and perhaps given a moment or two to thaw out-the victims explained that they were working in the basement at around 12:40 a.m. when an unknown perp arrived toting an Uzi submachine gun and carrying a knife strapped to his left wrist.
He locked them in the fridge-but then, upon realizing that he needed a set of keys to get into the office, came back to solicit their assistance. While the cleaners might very well have been eager to cooperate, the fact that neither they nor their assailant spoke the same language presented something of a challenge.
“The employees stated that the perp kept asking for keys to the office,” said the police. “Two employees were having difficulty understanding the perp due to the fact that the employees didn’t understand English very well and the perp did not understand Spanish very well.”
The robber locked his victims back up in the fridge and then, apparently for lack of the keys, used an industrial “soup mixer” (whatever that might be) to break through a sheetrock wall into the office. As improvisationally impressive as the effort was, he was still to experience defeat: There were two safes in the office, but he was unable to gain entry to either one of them and so fled empty-handed in an unknown direction.
The cops canvassed the area, with negative results, though they did manage to recover two pieces of evidence: a baseball cap and a large fork the bandit had jammed through the lock holes on the fridge door to prevent his prisoners from opening it from the inside.
Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.