Do You Trust Your Super? What About His Friends?

Urban living presents many dilemmas, and one of them—perhaps not quite the most acute, but significant nonetheless, especially if you suffer from paranoid tendencies—is whether to give a set of house keys to your building’s super.

Even if you have the utmost confidence in his or her integrity, what about all those other people—friends, relatives, porters, plumbers, etc.—who may have access to the box where they’re kept?

The renters of several apartments on the same floor at 155 East 92nd Street are currently suffering from the financial as well as psychological after-effects of this conundrum. The tenants were all burglarized on Sept. 1. None of the incidents involved forced entry—in other words, somebody let himself in using a key. “There was no damage to the door, the [lock] cylinder or the door frame,” said Maria Ayala, the 19th Precinct’s crime-prevention officer.

One of the victims, a 21-year-old woman, said that when she got home from work that evening, she found her door unlocked (she’s positive that she locked it when leaving for work shortly after 8 a.m.) and her 2001 PowerBook laptop (valued at $1,000), as well as a $400 Briggs & Riley suitcase, missing. The burglar also took a $350 flat-screen TV belonging to her roommate and two gold chains, one valued at $300, the other at $75.

The renter of the apartment next-door, a 30-year-old female, offered the police a similar story. She said that when she got home from work that evening, her computer—a $3,500 15-inch Mac PowerBook laptop—was gone. So was a second Mac valued at $1,000, a pink Apple iPod, $100 worth of Mac software and a container with $50 worth of coins.

Indeed, the perp won’t need to go computer shopping any time soon: He scored a fourth machine from yet another apartment on the floor. The victim in this case was a 27-year-old woman who said, once again, that there were no signs of forced entry. Her laptop was valued at $1,500.

Police Officer Ayala advises people always to change the locks when they move into a new apartment, though that won’t save them if they decide to go sharing their keys with the management. She also suggests that residents ask themselves the following questions: Do you feel safe in your current apartment? Is your fire-escape window properly secured? Are your locks high-security and pick-resistant? Do you know how many locks it takes to secure your front door? Do you know how useful that peephole really is?

Believe it or not, even with everything else they have on their plate, the NYPD will come to your home and give you a free home-security survey. Ms. Ayala can be reached at 212-452-0630. As for the East 92nd Street case, it remains under investigation. The key question (if you’ll pardon the expression) that the police are focusing on is where the keys were kept, as well as who had access to them.

$9,800 Short

Borrowing a page from the London subway-bomber playbook, a bank robber wearing a baseball cap, a brown blazer and (most crucial of all) a backpack visited the Chase Bank at 181 East 90th Street on Sept. 1. Undoubtedly hoping to tap into the public’s healthy fear of annihilation, he passed a teller a note that stated, “I have a gun in my pocket and a 10-pound homemade bomb. Give me $10,000 or we’ll all go to hell.”

The female teller, a cool customer who was flustered by neither the crook’s knapsack nor note, handed him a “decoy pack” (i.e., one with serial numbers that had been recorded to make the notes more easily traceable) containing a mere $200. The suspect fled on foot in an unknown direction.

‘Picasso-Like’

You might assume that you’d be safe moving to a different apartment within the same building—on the same floor, no less (and in a Park Avenue building to boot). Not so, according to a 40-year-old woman who relocated from one apartment to another on the 17th floor at 530 Park Avenue on Sept. 1.

The victim told the police that her movers put one of her paintings in the freight elevator next to her apartment. Why the painting needed to take a ride when the victim was moving horizontally rather than vertically wasn’t explained.

She described the purloined painting as “Picasso-like” rather than by the master himself, and thus worth $3,500 rather than, say, $3.5 million. Nonetheless, she added that the artwork was “colorful” and had been painted in 1950.

I Know Who You Are

Identity theft, it won’t come as any news, is running rampant. And by the time the cops track down your assailant—if they ever do—your credit rating may be writhing on the floor in agony. But now comes a way to fight back, as one local victim proved on Aug. 29.

When he discovered that someone had gotten access to his credit-card information and transferred $450 from his Bank of America Visa card to her own Visa card, the victim—who described himself as a former Springfield, Mass., police officer (perhaps in hopes of getting preferential treatment from his law-enforcement brethren, perhaps merely to explain his investigative skills)—went on Net Detective. That’s one of those Web sites where, for the bargain-basement price of $29, you can locate all the sex offenders in your neighborhood or check to see whether any of your high-school classmates have declared bankruptcy.

Armed with the perpetrator’s name and age, the amateur sleuth, a West 50th Street resident, discovered that she was employed by New York–Presbyterian Hospital. He then contacted the hospital and confirmed that it had an employee with the same name and age on its staff. The sleuth further determined that the woman used the hospital as her home address and (perhaps not surprisingly) worked in the computer office.

The case apparently remains under investigation.

Do You Trust Your Super? What About His Friends?