Crime Blotter

Perp Shopped Like a Woman

And Walked Like a Man

It’s hard enough giving the cops an accurate description of your assailant when you’re confident of his or her sex. But it becomes doubly difficult if you aren’t. That’s the dilemma the folks at Tatiana, a shop at 767 Lexington Avenue, faced on May 27.

A tall woman-though in retrospect she may have been a he -visited the store at around 3:30 in the afternoon and helped herself to all the trimmings of a fabulous wardrobe. They included a $1,200 Versace watch, a $450 Louis Vuitton bag (every girl ought to have one), a $675 Chanel handbag (ditto) and $500 worth of assorted clothing.

Apparently, the reason the staff is unsure of their shoplifter’s gender is that she stood at a strapping 6-foot-3, and not in her Jimmy Choos, either. She was also sporting a long black wig. Unfortunately, the store’s security camera won’t be able to answer the question “Does she or doesn’t she?”-or, rather, “Is she or isn’t she?”-since, even though the perp was caught on the store’s security camera, the tape was accidentally erased.

All About Yves

The folks at Yves Saint Laurent, at 855 Madison Avenue, have even less to go on regarding the description of the crook who burglarized their store in the early-morning hours of May 29. The police responded to a call of breaking glass at the location and found that the designer boutique had been plucked.

The unknown perp apparently entered the store by smashing the front-door glass and helped himself to an undetermined amount of merchandise; at the time of this report, the staff was planning to take inventory to come up with a damage assessment. The police searched the store, with negative results, and also canvassed the surrounding area, circling from 71st Street down to 69th Street and from Madison to Park avenues, also without success.

An NYPD evidence-collection team was notified and will have something to work with-the perp apparently left behind his plastic bag and a shirt.

Policeman With a Plan

When it comes to bank robberies, the West Village is just as popular as any other part of town. For example, in recent weeks a suspect sporting a rakish gray golf cap successfully held up the Chase Bank at 302 West 12th Street after handing a teller a rather surly note that stated: “Hand over a stack of $10,000 or I’ll shoot everybody.”

However, the Village has also had some notable successes in apprehending those who commit a crime that has quickly become almost as popular as inside trading was during the 90’s, though perhaps not as lucrative. Indeed, two cops from the Sixth Precinct, Police Officers Robert Reid and Louis DeVirgilio, received the 2002 Cop of the Year Award from the Greenwich Village/Chelsea Chamber of Commerce for solving a remarkable seven bank robberies and 39 burglaries last year.

So we decided to ask Officer DeVirgilio, who looks all of about 18 (“I get carded all the time,” he confessed), what the secret to catching bad guys is.

“You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time,” the cop answered modestly, though accurately. In one of the incidents for which he and his partner received their award, the officers arrived at the Chase Bank on West 12th Street-the same bank that was re-robbed recently-just as the bandit was departing. “As we rolled up, the guy was coming out of the bank,” Officer DeVirgilio recalled. “He didn’t even pay attention to us. We drove up in a cab.”

The suspect was later charged with robbing the Citibank at 555 La Guardia Place and the Chase at 158 West 14th Street.

In another apprehension that involved a combination of luck and good police work, Officer DeVirgilio was hanging out at the Broadway and Eighth Street subway stop in October 2002. He was hoping to spot a bank robber who was on a roll and was perhaps a bit too habitual for his own good: He was wanted in connection with three previous bank robberies in the area and typically struck on Wednesdays, between 1 and 3 p.m., when he came to Manhattan to collect some sort of government check.

“We had a picture of who we thought it was,” explained Officer DeVirgilio, who identified the perp as he emerged from the subway and followed him, along with several other undercover officers from the Sixth Precinct. “If this wasn’t the guy, it was his twin brother. We canvassed him for an hour. He was canvassing banks to see how many people were in there.”

Eventually, the suspect found a bank to his liking-at Varick and Houston streets-and started to don the disguise he’d been caught by security cameras using at the previous banks he’d hit in the Village and in Queens. “All the complaint reports said he had a hood and glasses,” explained Officer DeVirgilio, who’d rushed ahead and was watching him from inside the bank. “He put on a hood and glasses and started walking away.”

The cops introduced themselves. “He had a knife in his left hand that Officer Fontana wrestled out,” Officer DeVirgilio went on, referring to Police Officer Brett Fontana. “We got him cuffed and opened his left hand-he had the bank note in his left hand. He had another note in his left pocket.”

The perp hadn’t walked away from the bank because he got cold feet. Rather, he was engaging in a sort of pre-game ritual. “He was going down the block to take a hit of crack,” Officer DeVirgilio explained, “and then he was going to go into the bank.”

Ralph Gardner can be reached at Crime Blotter