Officers Put Small Dent
In Uptown Grand Larceny
One of the more persistent and intractable crimes on the Upper East Side and West Side are the shoplifting grand larcenies at high-end boutiques. So it was with particular glee that, on July 14, the cops arrested a trio of crooks who specialized in such jobs. What made the arrests even more satisfying was that they were what the police call “observation collars.” In other words, they identified the folks in question as crooks before they had actually committed any crimes. Then the cops followed the suspects patiently (and, of course, surreptitiously) until they did.
The fun started at around 2 p.m., when Police Officers Neil Hicks and Paul Dondorfer of the 19th Precinct anti-crime unit spotted three people-a female and two males-standing by a pickup truck on 80th Street between Lexington and Third avenues. They had noticed one of the suspects earlier in the day “aimlessly walking around,” Officer Hicks said-a dead giveaway in a city of hard-chargers heading determinedly toward their destinations.
So the cops, who work in plainclothes, decided to take a closer look and walked right by the truck, within feet of the suspects. When they did, they struck pay dirt. “They had booster bags,” Officer Hicks reported, referring to the bags thieves make that render electronic-security tags useless. “They were lining the bags with duct tape and aluminum foil.”
The officers, driving a yellow cab, followed their prey across the park to the Upper West Side, where they visited a Club Monaco store located at 87th Street and Broadway. “The female and male went in,” Officer Hicks continued, “and one of the males stayed outside as the lookout. The male blocks and distracts the staff in there as the female removes over $2,000 worth of sweaters into the booster bag and leaves the store.”
Officers Hicks and Dondorfer watched the action from outside. “You never want to get that close,” the cop explained. “These people are so good they’ll make you.”
Once the woman got outside the store, she handed off her bag of goodies to her shopping accomplice and they departed in opposite directions. “We grab the guy about a block away,” Officer Hicks said. The female and the lookout were also promptly apprehended with the help of Police Officer Sal Catapano of the anti-crime unit, who was driving an unmarked police car.
“This team was one of many teams that have been involved in our area,” Officer Hicks said of the threesome, adding that another of their favorite targets are Ann Taylor stores. “They had numerous prior grand-larceny arrests for the same thing-high-end clothing.”
The woman, a 30-year-old Brooklyn resident, turned out to be quite talkative. “We got information from her about where they sell their clothes,” Officer Hicks said, referring to a store in the East New York section of Brooklyn. “The manager of Club Monaco has seen her before. She’s been in there attempting to steal prior [to this incident].”
Previous victims have also described the pickup truck, a Ford Explorer, as being in the vicinity when the crimes occurred. So the cops hope to be able to tie their prisoners-all of whom were changed with grand larceny-to other cases. They also hope to pay a visit to that East New York store where the perps fenced their spoils.
“Grand larceny in the 19th, the Two-O and the Two-Four is a major problem,” Officer Hicks said. “If we can put a little dent in it, it goes a long way.”
There are an almost infinite number of ways in which crooks give themselves up.
But the gaggle of ladies who visited Oilily, a boutique at 820 Madison Avenue, on July 12 did so in a manner that might be considered naïve, almost charming-though not, of course, to their victim, a store employee.
In yet another instance of thievery at an uptown boutique, the employee had placed her pocketbook behind the store counter near some unattended cash registers when, unbeknownst to her, a perp or perps absconded with it. She only learned of the theft when she received a call from an officer at the 19th Precinct about 20 minutes later, informing her that a good Samaritan had found the pocketbook and turned it in.
It was at this point the employee realized that the customers in question-who had mysteriously left the shop, only to return minutes later-had paid for their purchases with three $50 bills eerily similar to the three 50’s that had been in her purse when it was stolen.
And if that wasn’t proof enough, when the call from the cops came in, the suspects (whom the shopkeeper described as one 25-year-old woman, a second in her 50’s with long black hair and a third, 5-foot-4 and pregnant)-who apparently had been shopping with their victim’s stolen money-were heard to exclaim “Oh, shoot!” before fleeing in an unknown direction.
As if the movie industry didn’t have enough problems with the disappointing performance of this summer’s Terminator and Charlie’s Angels installments, its profit margins got squeezed even further on July 10 when one of the managers at the Loews Cineplex at 2310 Broadway ran off with almost $2,000 in movie money.
The suspect, who’d worked for Loews for two years, suddenly quit, but neglected to leave behind the combination to his personal safe, another manager informed the police. Each manager has a personal safe containing $2,500, so he or she can make change during the shift.
After the suspect quit, the staff had to drill his safe open. When they did, they discovered that its contents fell far short of the $2,500 that was supposed to be inside. Indeed, $1,712.60 had vanished along with the perp.
The manager also told the cops that when he last spoke with the suspect (who wasn’t told that his theft had been discovered), the suspect said that he’d be back to visit shortly. Loews was advised to call 911 when and if that lucky moment occurs. Apparently, they’re still waiting. The case remains under investigation by the 20th Precinct detective squad.
-additional reporting by
Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.