Crime Blotter

It should go without saying that sec Frankfurter Fisticuffs:

Kosher Dog Brings Men to Blowsurity is tight around 79th Street and Fifth Avenue. Both Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s townhouse and the Iraqi Mission to the U.N. are just down the block. Nonetheless, all those cops didn’t prevent fisticuffs from erupting on the corner on June 15 over the price of a hot dog.

Not surprisingly, each of the disputants-the hot-dog vendor and his customer-blamed the altercation on the other. According to the sidewalk merchant, he was minding his own business and hawking his tasty franks to the public when one customer, a 44-year-old East 105th Street native, objected to the cost of a wiener and started yelling at him. The dispute took a nasty turn when the client allegedly punched the vendor in the mouth, causing swelling and minor bleeding.

During the dispute, the vendor also lost his eyeglasses-and not just any eyeglasses. Apparently, they were a pair of 24-carat spectacles valued at $1,500. Business must be good on 79th Street and Fifth Avenue.

The customer and the vendor were able to agree on one thing: that their heated discussion was over the price of the humble hot dog. But that’s about all they could come to a consensus on. The customer claims that he was the one who got punched in the face. Furthermore, he says, an accomplice of the hot-dog vendor came up behind him and began to choke him. He suffered scratches to his face, neck and arms, and his eyeglasses were broken as well. The combatants filed cross complaints against each other at the 19th Precinct.

Mystery Package

The terror-alert level may only be at yellow for the moment (or is it robin’s-egg blue?), but that doesn’t mean the folks over at the Guggenheim Museum are letting down their guard. When the assistant manager of the museum’s Peter B. Lewis Theater discovered a suspicious package by the theater’s entrance on June 11 at 6:45 p.m., he didn’t call the curatorial staff to see whether it might be one of the museum’s avant-garde installations.

Instead, he removed the package to what was described by the police as a “secure area” at the corner of 89th Street and Fifth Avenue (secure, at least, from the point of view of the guests who were shortly to attend an event at the theater that evening; from the perspective of passers-by on the street, however, the relocation may not have seemed so ideal).

Based on the facts as they knew them, responding police officers determined the package might indeed be an explosive device and prudently directed people away from that area. They also searched for additional devices and summoned the Emergency Service Unit. The E.S.U., concurring with the cops on the scene that the box might well be a bomb, passed the buck off to the bomb squad.

The bomb squad, those valiant souls, arrived and opened the package-after which, a collective sigh of relief was undoubtedly breathed. The box contained nothing more lethal than umbrellas. The area was re-opened to pedestrian and vehicular traffic at 7:15 p.m.

Larceny by Appointment

On June 3, a rather ingenious con man visited Creatability, a “craft-filled wonderland” for kids, according to its Web site, at 500 East 88th Street. The fellow inquired at the front desk whether his wife had arrived for her appointment-perhaps to arrange for a birthday party, or to ask about one of the other many fabulous events the center hosts. The receptionist apparently didn’t ask his wife’s name; she merely shared the information that the next appointment had not yet arrived.

So the crook-perhaps having planted the seed of his own legitimacy in the employee’s mind-went on to explain that his car had broken down and was about to be towed unless he could come up with the cash (which, unfortunately, he didn’t have) to pay off the tow operator.

His victim, a 35-year-old woman and Good Samaritan to boot, lent him $60.

When the perp didn’t return and the store’s next appointment had no idea who the man was, the employee realized she’d been duped.

‘No Service’ Area

It sounds like the intelligent thing to do: When you get into an argument with someone-perhaps it’s over a fender-bender, as it was on June 17 at the northwest corner of Park Avenue and 60th Street-you call a time-out while you dial 911 on your cell phone. As civilized as this strategy might sound, it’s a flawed one when, as you’re dialing, the other guy’s beating the living crap out of you.

That’s what happened during this dispute, which kicked off around 4:30 p.m. The assailant, described as six feet tall and 200 pounds, tried to punch his adversary in the face. But rather than fighting back-or even getting in the tuck position-the victim announced that he was going to call 911 and let the cops settle the problem. “Fuck the cops,” the perp said and, for emphasis, slugged his victim numerous times in the chest and shoulder, which he dislocated.

He then promptly fled southbound on Park Avenue in a black Mazda with New York plates. The victim, a 57-year-old Astoria resident, drove himself to St. Clare’s Hospital to be treated.

Oh, yeah: The other problem with cell phones is that they often don’t work even when everything’s going well. And they certainly aren’t made to withstand a fist fight. This guy’s phone broke when it encountered one of his opponent’s many punches.

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

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