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Long Rap Sheet a Bit Longer

On the afternoon of April 14, the denizens of the holding cell in the 19th Precinct’s arrest-processing room included the usual assortment of pickpockets and shoplifters, one of them a well-groomed female (who actually wasn’t inside the cell, but sitting outside it handcuffed to the bars), whose blasé demeanor suggested this wasn’t her first brush with the law. The cell itself contained two middle-aged men, well-dressed though looking forlorn nonetheless.

The cops had arrested them for trying to pull a con on a woman on the corner of 88th Street and Park Avenue that morning. The con involved claiming they had just found a fortune and wanted to share it (con games typically turn on the victim’s greed and willingness to suspend disbelief), but needed their mark to put up good-faith money as collateral. “The female was smart enough not to go along with it,” explained Neil Hicks, one of the arresting officers. “She called 911.”

She also reported that her assailants drove off in a burgundy Town Car. The vehicle was spotted around 1:30 p.m. by members of the precinct’s Burglary Apprehension Team (B.A.T.) and stopped at 98th Street and Park Avenue.

“They had all the con-game paraphernalia: bank-deposit envelopes, rolls of fake money, stock certificates,” said Officer Hicks, a member of the Anti-Crime Unit.

The cops not only arrested the suspects-55 and 60 years old, respectively-but they also introduced themselves to the younger of the two gentleman and reminded him that they’d met before. Neil Ariano, Officer Hicks’ partner, had arrested the perp in 2001 for a similar con.

“When we mentioned that incident, he looked at me and my partner,” Officer Hicks said. “He said, ‘Yeah, I remember that,'” though apparently without much fondness.

“He’s probably looking at another year or so,” the cop said of the man, who did eight months on Rikers for his previous offense. Officer Hicks added that the con artist is suspected of similar crimes in the 17th and 20th precincts. “We’re going to be doing lineups tonight.”

The perp’s friend, wearing a gray suit and dress shoes, probably won’t get away with just a slap on the wrist, either. His rap sheet includes grand larceny, drug and prostitution arrests in New Jersey. “These guys make a killing doing this,” Officer Hicks sighed. “They know there’s a lot of money here.”

I Found My Job in

The Journal

By police estimates, bank robberies in New York City are currently being committed at the rate of approximately three or four a day. One of the more recent incidents occurred on April 7 at the Citibank at 86th Street and Broadway.

A perp visited the bank at around 2:33 p.m., approached the business window-perhaps thinking that service would be speedier if he was mistaken for a preferred customer-and handed the teller a note on green paper.

The teller didn’t read the note, however. Instead, she placed her hands underneath the counter in an attempt to sound the hold-up alarm. But the suspect was on to her. “Don’t move your hands, and give me the money,” he stated.

Rather than comply, the bank employee backed away from the window, and the man, apparently realizing he had a problem on his hands-or at least a problem teller-retrieved his note and departed in an unknown direction.

While the reason for the recent spike in bank robberies is a matter for sociological conjecture, perhaps the most logical explanation is that the crimes seem so darn easy to commit. In fact, a police official reported that when one bank robber was apprehended recently, he cited an article he said he’d read in The Wall Street Journal as having given him the idea to rob banks rather than find a legitimate job.

“An individual said during a debriefing that he had read how easy it was [to hold up a bank] in the article, and that’s why he did it,” the police official stated. “He wasn’t really a bank robber; he read the article and decided to become a bank robber. Obviously, he didn’t do too well.”

For those who would like to help the NYPD reverse this troubling trend, the Police Department’s Web site now boasts a special section devoted exclusively to bank robbers. “You can go to ‘wanted people’ and then go to ‘bank robberies’ and get the best photos they have,” a police boss stated helpfully. “Somebody might recognize somebody.”

Pretty Please

On April 7, a bank robber (another dedicated Journal reader, perhaps?) visited the Chase Manhattan Bank at 1003 Lexington Avenue and passed the teller a note on a piece of loose-leaf paper. It stated, “I have a revolver. Please hand over the money.” The teller did as she was instructed, forking over $2,092, and the bandit fled the scene northbound on Lexington Avenue toward 73rd Street.

This reporter asked a cop whether he thought that a hold-up note that included the word “please” might be more likely to win a victim’s cooperation than one without it.

The police officer didn’t think it likely.

“But ‘please’ is the magic word,” the reporter noted.

“With a gun, it is,” the cop said.

For the record, the suspect-described as a 5-foot-2 male wearing a blue windbreaker with red lining and a black wool cap-never displayed the weapon he claimed to be packing.

Bad Luck Gets Worse

It was sort of a variation on making sure you’ve changed your underwear in case you’re in a situation where somebody decides to check. On April 6, at around 11:10 p.m., police responded to 59th Street and Second Avenue after a private sanitation truck overturned onto three southbound vehicles, temporarily forcing the closure of the 59th Street Bridge’s lower roadway.

All the passengers were able to exit their vehicles, with the exception of a 31-year-old-male who was pinned inside a yellow cab. It took the combined efforts of the FDNY and the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit to extricate the victim, who was then transported to New York Presbyterian Hospital.

However, after he was discharged, the young man discovered that rather than being allowed to go home, he was heading to Central Booking. In the course of liberating him from the cab, the cops had found a defaced, unloaded handgun in his possession. He was charged with illegal possession of a weapon.

Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at

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