The Crime Blotter

Perp Tries Dress for Success,

But Lady Luck Isn’t On His Side

There are all sorts of reasons a man would want to dress up in women’s clothing, some of them emotional, others more practical-especially if she (or rather he) is a professional shoplifter. Shoplifters’ penchant for drag may have something to do with the fact that it’s far easier to hide, say, a leather jacket or a twin set under a loose-fitting skirt or blouse than it is to pack the garment into a tight pair of slacks.

On the morning of Sept. 17, a couple of officers from the 19th Precinct’s anti-crime unit spotted a purple Ford Probe containing one of these practical-minded transvestites and two authentic female companions at 78th Street and Lexington Avenue. The officers’ attention was drawn to the vehicle because a Probe fitting that description had been observed in the vicinity of numerous shoplifting incidents over the previous couple of months.

So the cops, Paul Dondorfer and Neil Hicks, under the supervision of Sgt. Benny Carbone, decided to see where the car was heading. “We picked up on them and followed them for about two hours,” Officer Dondorfer told the Crime Blotter.

At around 10:45 a.m., two of the suspects-a black female and the transvestite, who was also black-entered the Bebe boutique, at Third Avenue and 66th Street, while the second woman waited outside in the car. “Two people go in, and one distracts the cashier,” Officer Dondorfer explained.

Between the two, the ladies managed to make a pair of jackets vanish under their clothes-a $219 fur trim jacket and a second jacket valued at $139. When they exited the boutique, the two perps were promptly apprehended.

“They were upset,” Officer Dondorfer added. “They denied the whole thing, but we had them on tape,” he said, referring to the store’s security camera.

The police also discovered stolen property in the perps’ car, including merchandise from other high-end stores.

Officer Dondorfer stopped short of calling the transvestite attractive, though he opined that he could pass for female without much trouble: “The guy was 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, and he had a very thin face.”

All three perps were changed with petty larceny. The investigation, which aims to connect them to previous open shoplifting cases, continues.

Kick ‘Em While

They’re Down

While most crime is unfortunate, situations where the perp takes advantage of his or her victim’s infirmity or fatigue-as the villains in two recent incidents did-are especially reprehensible.

In one case, which happened on Sept. 19, a gentleman was taken ill around 9:30 p.m. and sat down on a stoop in front of 1515 Third Avenue. A second gentleman sat down beside him and, feigning concern, asked if he was O.K. Whether the victim answered yes or no isn’t known. However, it’s probably safe to say that his interlocutor didn’t care, because the next thing he did was swipe the victim’s backpack and flee northbound on Third Avenue.

The $40 JanSport backpack contained $320 worth of textbooks, two calculators valued at $110 and an $8 book of stamps. The police canvassed the area, with negative results.

In a Sept. 15 incident that exploited a victim’s false sense of security, a man stopped to take an afternoon nap at 2:30 p.m. on a bench in St. Catherine’s Park at 68th Street and First Avenue.

In preparation for his siesta, he removed his dentures and placed them-carefully, one would suppose-beside him on the bench. However, when he awoke, an unknown perp had swiped his choppers and fled with them in an unknown direction. The victim, an East 71st Street resident, didn’t assign a value to the dental work.

Front-Seat Driver

One can certainly understand the impulse to sit in the front seat of a cab-especially given the claustrophobic feeling one gets thanks to those safety partitions between the passenger and the driver. However, claustrophobia was not the reason a woman jumped in beside her cabby in two separate incidents that occurred within 40 minutes of each other on Sept. 19.

At 3:30 p.m., the suspect hailed a cab at the southwest corner of Park Avenue and 72nd Street and asked to be taken to Albany. When the driver balked at her request, his passenger jumped in the front seat and stated, “You’re not taking me because I’m black.”

Given the always delicate state of race relations, one can understand how the comment might fluster and distract the driver-certainly sufficiently enough to allow the passenger to go through his belongings, as she apparently did.

When his passenger finally disembarked-still no closer to the state’s capital-the cabby realized his wallet (which had been in his cup holder) was missing. The victim told the cops that he could identify his assailant, whom he described as a 5-foot-5, 140-pound, approximately 28-year-old woman.

Maybe it’s because she came away pretty much empty-handed (the cabby’s wallet contained only a Citibank debit card and a H.I.P. health-insurance card) that the perp-or at least a female fitting the same description-hailed another cab at the northeast corner of 74th Street and Lexington Avenue at 4:10 p.m.

Almost as remarkable as finding a cab at that hour (when most are off-duty) was the fact that the driver agreed to take her to Queens. When the suspect tried to get in the cab, she claimed the back door wouldn’t open, so she hopped into the front seat beside the driver. Sound familiar?

The cabby later reported that he didn’t see his passenger take anything. However, he did notice her fidgeting with something between her legs, and his bag was on the floor beside her. When the cab reached 72nd Street and Second Avenue, the passenger announced she’d changed her mind and no longer wanted to go to Queens, and got out of the cab without paying.

Once she’d departed and the beleaguered cabby hit the street again, he noticed that the zipper to his bag was open and his wallet was missing. This time, the perp did better: She got away with the cabby’s credit cards and $230 in cash.

Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at The Crime Blotter