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For Opening Night at the Met

Ever wonder what the cops are talking about in hushed tones when they man the barricades at parades and demonstrations? In the case of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals demonstration at the Metropolitan Opera’s opening night on Sept. 29, the topic of discussion was whether the skinned foxes the animal activists were waving in the air were real or fake.

“You could probably put it down as disgusting,” explained Capt. James Murtagh, the commanding officer of the 20th Precinct. “It was more disgusting to the public. To us, it’s not that bad. You see worse than that-but the average Lincoln Center–goer ….”

The demonstration, which involved approximately 20 protesters, commenced on the steps of Lincoln Center at around 6 p.m. and was later moved across Columbus Avenue by the police. “It was a pre-emptive strike before the cold weather really sets in,” explained Michael Mcgraw, a spokesman for PETA, when contacted by The Crime Blotter. “The purpose is to remind people there were living, breathing animals behind every fur coat.”

Whenever someone with a fur emerged from a cab or limousine, the activists went into action, holding aloft their skinned and bloodied roadkill as they chastised the fur wearers.

“It’s a little unclear whether they had real dead animals or toys,” Captain Murtagh went on. “What was dripping did not appear to be blood; it was more like water-coloring or something. It dried very quickly-even on the animals they were waving around.”

No, confirmed Mr. McGraw, the props weren’t puppets-or roadkill, for that matter. “All of [the animals] came from a wildlife rehabilitator upstate,” he said, explaining that a rehabilitator’s job involves attempting to nurse the creatures back to health when they get caught in traps. If her efforts fail, she turns the carcasses over to PETA for propaganda purposes.

The group then skins the animals-to make them appear like victims of the furrier’s trade and callous ladies who lunch-and employs them to gross people out. After they’ve done their tour of duty, the spokesman added, the pelts are returned to the wild-or rather, given a proper burial at the home of a supporter with a lot of acreage around New Paltz, N.Y.

Captain Murtagh was frankly almost as amazed by the number of ladies who turned out in furs on such a balmy night as by the gore and guts. “I was actually there with a short-sleeved shirt on,” he said.

Old Dogs, Old Tricks

Old crooks-at least those with good genes and a little bit of luck-neither die nor fade away. Apparently, they become con artists, as a Sept. 26 incident that unfolded at the corner of 86th Street and Broadway suggests.

The suspects, two late-middle-aged men and a middle-aged woman, approached a 32-year-old Columbia University foreign student whose New York City street smarts were apparently still in the developmental stage. “They set in motion an elaborate scheme where the perp made believe he was a foreign national in possession of $300,000 which he couldn’t take back home,” explained Police Officer Clark Tiger, the 20th Precinct’s community-affairs officer.

The Columbia student was persuaded to withdraw $1,000 from her bank account-the crooks accompanied her to the Citibank branch at 86th Street and Broadway-and added it to the pot (or rather, paper bag) in exchange for being designated the safe-keeper of the 300 grand.

It was only after the con artists left in their car and the student opened the bag that she discovered it contained worthless paper. Her $1,000 had been stolen when she wasn’t looking.

Fortunately for her, the suspects had also caught the eye of the 20th Precinct grand-larceny squad, which had the trio under surveillance the whole time the con was going down. They pulled the perps’ car over at 79th Street and Riverside Drive and recovered the victim’s $1,000.

Perhaps more interesting than the crime itself were the villains’ advanced ages and voluminous rap sheets. One of them, a 52-year-old Baltimore woman, had 11 prior arrests, including five for grand larceny and two for robbery.

One of her co-workers, a 66-year-old male who resides on West 117th Street, had 62 prior arrests, including one for attempted murder, four for robbery and 27 for grand larceny-suggesting that con games virtually constituted retirement for him.

The third man, described as 52 years old and homeless, was hardly more virtuous. His rap sheet included 13 prior arrests, including three for robbery, two for kidnapping and five for grand larceny.

All three perps added another grand-larceny charge to their respective totals.



If you’ve ever experienced the pleasure, grandeur and even glamour of an $8,000, 40-inch flat-screen TV, you can almost understand the impulse to steal one. Unfortunately, the device’s dimensions make such an act challenging, to say the least-especially if you need to carry it down several flights of stairs, as one perp was required to do on Sept. 21.

The incident kicked off at around 9 p.m., when a neighbor of the victim heard a window breaking at their East 65th Street and Lexington Avenue apartment building. She called 911, and Police Officer John Schretzman, cruising down Park Avenue in his patrol car, responded to the scene. “We were stuck in so much traffic, we parked the car and walked there-I should say ran there,” Officer Schretzman recalled.

“While we’re going up the stairs,” he continued, “the perp is going down the stairs with a Sony flat-screen TV.” He was juggling the speakers, too. “He sort of knew the complainant’s name, and he knew the complainant was out of town. He said he was there to do computer work.”

The building’s super knew something, too-the victim’s cell-phone number. So the cops called it to check out the suspect’s alibi. It being Sunday night, the victim was on his way back home from the Hamptons.

“He knew [the perp’s] name,” Officer Schretzman said of the complainant. “I don’t know what his relationship was prior to that, but he certainly didn’t give him permission to break his back window. He wanted to prosecute.”

The suspect, a 34-year-old male, was charged with burglary.

Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at

The Crime Blotter