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Crooks Come Bearing Bouquet

Beware of strangers bearing flowers. At least, that seemed to be the message when two men arrived at the office of the East Side Car Wash at 1770 First Avenue on Feb. 21. For those who have never experienced the luxury of having their car cleaned at this fine institution, the operation works like this: Two teams, one assigned to the outside of the vehicle and the other assigned to attack the interior, make your wheels look almost brand-new in-no joking-like three minutes.

Unfortunately, all those energetic males work at the wash itself, rather than inside the office. So when the unknown visitors showed up at around 7:30 a.m., a lone female employee was the only one on duty to defend the place.

“I have a delivery for Karen,” one of the suspects announced, producing a bouquet. He also told the 27-year-old employee to “stop staring at me,” which probably wasn’t a good sign. Karen, another of the office workers, wasn’t there that day. No matter, because the men weren’t really flower-delivery men or smitten suitors; they’d come to rob the safe. In case there was any doubt about the intent of their visit, one of the men proceeded to make it clear by producing a black 9-millimeter and stating (in what the victim described as a distinct Israeli accent), “Shut up, motherfucker”-

apparently in reference to the victim’s

objections regarding their intentions.

The other crook then donned a ski mask, and the two of them forced the woman to open the safe and remove $30,000 in cash. After she’d done so, they tied her hands behind her back with what the police described as “zip ties.” The victim eventually was able to free herself and summon her co-workers at the car wash. But by then, her attackers had fled in an unknown direction.

Bad Language

There are lots of routes through which words and phrases enter the vernacular: fashion, technology, the Defense Department’s daily briefings-take your pick. And, of course, there’s the street. That’s where this reporter picked up a new turn of phrase (new to us, though perhaps not to you, depending on who you’re hanging with) that seemed a novel synthesis of both crime and technology.

The phrase was uttered at around 4:35 p.m. on Feb. 20, on the northeast corner of 88th Street and First Avenue, when a 15-year-old boy, a West 86th Street resident, was approached by six males and one female.

The teenager was ordered to turn over his money by one of the crooks, though the demand wasn’t made in the usual way. Rather than saying something like “Give me your money,” the perp stated, “Run your pockets”-as if the act of forking over his cash was a Windows operating program.

Apparently the order didn’t have sufficient gravitas (“I can hurt you” usually works like a charm), because the young man declined to do as he was told. So, resorting to a command that’s perhaps more easily understood, the suspect socked his victim in the right eye, causing a cut and a bruise, and thus persuaded him to fork over $2.

For good measure, one of the creeps also picked up a broom and hit the kid on the back of the head. Two of the males-one 14, the other 15-were promptly apprehended and arrested.

The phrase “Run your pockets” was familiar to one cop questioned by this reporter, but not to several others. Apparently, it’s a local dialect. “I think Brooklyn muggers like to use that more than Manhattan muggers,” the officer commented.

It couldn’t immediately be determined whether the crooks hailed from that fair borough.

Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at

Crime Blotter