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NYPD Cracks Down on Theft

Grand larceny 70 percent of Midtown Manhattan crime

By James Smith
Epoch Times Staff
Created: October 3, 2012 Last Updated: October 4, 2012
Related articles: United States » New York City
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A building with fire escapes in New York. There are many more craftier ways than this fire escape that thieves have come up with to steal people's possessions. (Amal Chen/The Epoch Times)

A building with fire escapes in New York. There are many more craftier ways than this fire escape that thieves have come up with to steal people's possessions. (Amal Chen/The Epoch Times)

NEW YORK—New York Police Department’s 13th Precinct spends a great deal of time chasing thieves.

The precinct, which covers the lower portion of Midtown Manhattan, caught a prolific burglar recently, according to Deputy Inspector Ted Berntsen, the commanding officer of the precinct.

The offender had just been released from 15 years in jail, only to allegedly commit more than 30 burglaries in a six-week period, Berntsen said.

“We had 30 police officers staked out on different fire escapes and rooftops,” Berntsen said.

“Here comes our burglar walking through the alley and he walked right up the fire escape next to him,” Berntsen said, signaling to an officer. “And after a chase on the rooftop we arrested him.”

“It was almost like one of those scenes from one of those TV shows, it worked out perfectly,” he said.

The precinct has also been plagued by a spate of grand larceny, with thieves particularly targeting iPhones.

Deputy Inspector Ted Berntsen talks about safety and security to the Flatiron community Wednesdayy. (Courtesy of the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership)

Deputy Inspector Ted Berntsen talks about safety and security to the Flatiron community Wednesdayy. (Courtesy of the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership)

Berntsen said grand larceny accounts for about 70 percent of crime in the precinct, with just more than 1,000 incidents this year so far.

More than half (54 percent) of the precinct’s grand larceny cases happened after the victim left something for a moment, and a thief picked it up.

Grand larceny is when someone simply takes property at $1,000 or more, and differs from burglary, which involves breaking and entering.

Overall crime in the city has dramatically decreased in the last 22 years.

In 1990, a total of 10,140 crimes were reported, compared to 3,018 in 2001, and 2,043 in 2011. The trend has continued this year with a 1.79 percent decrease from last year’s crime rate.

Donation Scams

Berntsen gave an account of some more crafty thieves.

“These kids would go into office buildings. Their scam was to ask for this donation for a boys club, or a basketball team. A lot of people give them money.

“But the real reason they are there is so one guy can scout around for that iPhone that one of the workers left on the desk while the other went to the bathroom,” he said.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) put photos of the youths on posters, and caught them after a tipoff sometime later.

Berntsen encouraged people to subscribe to the NYPD’s email list to have those posters on hand.

Thieves Beware

NYPD will be on the streets, undertaking various bug operations to flush out thieves.

Some of these operations will include leaving bags in certain places and keeping watch to see if someone steals them.

Berntsen said people should be careful with the holiday season approaching, as there are normally more thefts.

He said people should consider changing locks on doors, putting security cameras in certain places, and even simple things such as putting a nail in the window.

Fire escapes can provide easy access for burglars, especially when people have their windows open because of nice weather, Berntsen said.

People should also be more aware on the subway, as thieves have been targeting electronic goods, particularly iPhones and Android phones, on trains.

Maintaining Quality of Life

Different precincts have different issues to deal with, in terms of maintaining the community’s quality of life.

For the 13th Precinct one issue is keeping bicycles off the sidewalk, whereas in some parts of Brooklyn it is dealing with shots being fired through a window, Berntsen said.

“I’m happy with the bicycles on the sidewalk and we’ll deal with that,” Berntsen said.

Annette Green, a senior from Gramercy Park, said she was upset by the unruly behavior of young bar goers.

She said at 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. people are all along Third Avenue, between and 22nd and 20th streets.

“The proliferation of the bars has created a sort of Wild West behavior,” Green said.

Berntsen said he was aware of the issue and there was work been done to get extra taxi stands approved on that street.

Emergency Planning

Plans for dealing with freak weather events or terrorist attacks, which could require community containment or evacuation, is something the precinct is still working on improving.

Berntsen said every precinct has a standalone plan for emergency situations.

The NYPD is now working on Twitter, Facebook, and distributing information via phone, he said.

Jennifer Brown, executive director of the Flatiron Business Improvement District, recommended that residents join the district’s contact list so it can distribute information in an emergency situation.

The Union Square Partnership will host Ready Union Square, an emergency preparedness forum, for small businesses on Oct. 24.

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