Street Camera Helps Nab Bike-Riding Cellphone Thief
A street camera near 29th Street and Broadway played a major part in apprehending an individual wanted for snatching cellphones while riding a bicycle. An image taken from where the man stole a cellphone from what turned out to be his last victim on September 20, depicted the cellphone thief as between 20 and 30 years old, 5 feet, 6 inches to 5 feet, 8 inches tall, Black or Hispanic and wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt. The image was circulated to the media on September 22 by the NYPD. At the September 27 meeting of the 114th Police Precinct Community Council, 114th Precinct Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector Stephen Cirabisi announced that the cellphone snatcher was arrested over the weekend of September 24 and 25.“Cameras are a great asset to the police department. That’s how we caught the guy on the bicycle,” Cirabisi said. Complainants were able to make positive identification in six cases, although the perpetrator might have been responsible for as many as 20 incidents in four Queens precincts where cellphones were grabbed in broad daylight.
During January to July 2011, the Police Department reported that 41 percent of all property crimes in New York City involved cellphones. There was also an increase of 18 percent in grand larcenies on subways involving cellphones between January and March 2011 over the same time span for the year before. “Cellphone robberies are problematic now,” said Cirabisi, indicating the expensive phones are “an easy target”.
In August, United States Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) called for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and major phone carriers to require a mandatory shutdown of a stolen cellphone to prevent its future use. Currently, if a customer reports a phone is stolen, only the phone’s SIM card is deactivated, leaving the phone available for resale on the black market. Schumer said deactivating phones completely would make stealing them a “worthless endeavor”. However, police actually prefer that the phone or SIM not be deactivated. “We’re able to track the phone and see what numbers have been called and where they have been used,” if the phone is not canceled, Cirabisi said, adding, “Obviously you want to get a description and call NYPD right away.”
Police Officers Jeremy Brandenburg and Dennis Mogelnicki were named Cops of the Month for July and August, respectively.
Brandenburg, part of the 114th’s anticrime team, was in plainclothes at 3:45 a.m. on August 27 when he observed an individual breaking into a sixth vehicle on the southeast corner of 32nd Avenue and 56th Street. He arrested the man and also recovered stolen property. In addition, Brandenburg was responsible for the arrests of two other individuals for car break-ins several weeks earlier. “A great job,” Cirabisi declared.
On August 24 at 4:26 a.m., Mogelnicki was investigating a report of shots fired involving a dispute at Starlites Gentleman’s Club when he heard additional shots coming from nearby Club Perfection at 1 Bulova Ave., a few blocks away. He then proceeded to the location and saw a white SUV with a bullet-shattered window fleeing the scene. Stopping the vehicle, he arrested three individuals and confiscated two loaded firearms. The suspects, from Brooklyn, all had lengthy criminal histories.
“They were some really bad people,” Cirabisi said.