The scenarios are all to familiar to NYPD Capt. Roy Kaplan.
People walking with their cell phones and then someone suddenly runs by stealing them; subway riders sitting by the door have their laptops stolen as the doors close behind them; or wallets taken on crowded trains during rush hour, with people stacked next to each other, so the victim doesn’t feel the person stealing their wallet or purse.
It all happens so fast, the victim doesn’t have a description of the perpetrator.
Kaplan heads police operations for all subways in Queens with the exception of the A Line, and he spoke at a meeting of the 112th Precinct’s Community Council on Feb. 15 to teach people how to avoid becoming victims of subway crime.
Deputy Inspector Christopher Tamola, commanding officer of the 112th Precinct said “iPhones are a hot item.”
Kaplan and Tamola said the NYPD offers common sense tips for subway riders to protect their electronics and other valuables:
— Don’t sit by the subway door with the laptop, an iPad, or cell phones exposed because a thief could snatch them, run out of the subway car as the doors close, and get lost into the crowd;
— Men should keep wallets in a front pocket;
— Women should carry handbags and purses in front of them;
— Backpacks and briefcases also should be kept in front where an owner can keep an eye on them.
The veteran officers said always being aware of one’s surroundings is as important as keeping electronic devices out of sight.
Kaplan said “Lush workers” is the name police give to criminals who see people sleeping on subway cars after a night of drinking or working late, stealing from the dozing victims by cutting through their bags or pockets.
Both said all tips are especially important during rush hour times when the subways are crowded.
They also said both the 112th Precinct and Transit Police have plainclothes officers who blend into the crowd. Three of those Anti-Crime Unit officers — Lizabeth Klein, Todd Keyes, and Caesar Romero — shared Officer of the Month honors bestowed by the Community Council at the meeting.
Tamola also cited just one instance of how the NYPD and the 112th Precinct are constantly using new tools to augment old-fashioned shoe-leather police work.
On Jan. 27th, a car break-in near a Dunkin’ Donuts led three officers to examine surveillance videos from surrounding stores.
They then canvassed the area and found the suspect with both stolen property and another person’s wallet on him.
The suspect subsequently was connected to three other crimes that happened within the 112th Precinct, and three others that took place within the area covered by the neighboring 104th Precinct.
The suspect was sentenced to jail time until May of this year. Tamola said police often look at store videos around subway stations where crimes are reported.
Members of the public brought up concerns about crime occurring in the past in the vicinity of the 67th Avenue subway station while children are streaming out of nearby schools.
Tamola said it hasn’t been an issue recently, although “sometimes we get cell phone snatches” during the time school lets out he said.
He said anti-crime units, plainclothes officers and school team units are deployed on afternoons while children are leaving school.
They are positioned at subway stations and at places where students congregate, such as pizzerias and stationary stores.
“We want officers to be seen” as school lets out, Tamola said.
Residents at the meeting also raised the issue of homeless on subway trains and in stations.
Kaplan said that while homelessness is not a crime, people are asked not to take up more than one seat and the rule is enforced.
The captain said summonses are given out for things like urinating, and that for all subway riders drinking of any liquid is not allowed, though eating is.
He said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Transit Police go out every night to reach out to the homeless in an effort to connect them to social services and a shelter.