Crime Spree At U.W.S. Hostels

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:05

    Precinct reports rash of thefts at hostels and a gym on the Upper West Side

    Upper West Side Police have reported a rash of thefts at two hostels and a gym on the Upper West Side.

    "Burglaries and grand larcenies are our major concern," said Commander Marlon Larin of the 24th Precinct, which extends north from West 86th Street to West 110th Street. That territory includes a number of hostels and at least one gym where the police have reported an increase in larcenies.

    "We had four larcenies at the International Youth Hostel at 891 Amsterdam Avenue," said Larin, who noted that they all occurred within the last full week of March.

    "On April 2 the precinct anti-crime unit went in and they surveyed the area to see if there was any suspicious activity," said Larin. "They also collaborated with the building security just to create stronger ties in the sense that if they see anything that may be off base they can call us directly and we can respond."

    Management at the International Youth Hostel did not respond to requests for comment.

    Larin characterized the thefts as an isolated cluster, and said at an April 16 precinct council meeting that they haven't seen any thefts at the hostel since then.

    "We also had three burglaries that were reported [on April 15] at Jazz on the Park, at 36 West 106th Street," said Larin. "This is one of our local hostels and we will be deploying our anti-crime team there again just to duplicate what they did at the International Youth Hostel."

    The West Side Spirit visited Jazz on the Park and spoke to Pedro Almonte, who works the front desk and has been with the hostel for three years. He said thieves typically target laptops and tablets, and that the recent rash of thefts happened around April 14 and 15 but were an isolated incident perpetrated by one individual. Police have since visited and surveyed the security situation, he said.

    "I think he did it in like one or two days," said Almonte of the crime spree. "He must've known where everything was and the whole building because he knew how to do everything. He was speaking to some of the guests so I guess he was getting to know them and that's how it happened. He even spoke to one of the front desk agents and he seemed pretty normal to us."

    Almonte, who wasn't there during the incidents, said the hostel offers lockers in guests' rooms, as well as storage rooms that only hostel employees have access to. "But anything in the rooms that's not locked up or in the common areas we're not responsible for," he said.

    Almonte said there haven't been any thefts since the April 14-15 incident, and that they and the 24th Precinct have a photo of the suspect. Jazz on the Park has since upgraded the locking mechanism on the front door, which was broken, to lock any time the door is shut. Thefts at the hostel typically pick up over spring and summer months, but Almonte feels confident the hostel is secure as possible.

    Larin said he believes the perpetrators in these incidents are fellow tourists and not people in the neighborhood or residents from other parts of the city.

    Hostels aren't the only establishments on the Upper West Side being hit.

    "We also had four larcenies at the New York Sports Club at 2527 Broadway," said Larin, who mentioned that some thefts occur even when belongings are secured, including with the ubiquitous Master Lock combination padlocks.

    "Some of these opportunists have found a way to pop the lock easily," said Larin.

    So what's the best anti-theft device according to Larin?

    "To stump these perpetrators completely, just don't put anything of value [in your locker]," said Larin. "If you have credit cards, try to exercise in clothes with pockets."

    According to the 24th Precinct's most recent crime stats through April 13, burglaries are up 83 percent compared to the same period last year and grand larcenies are up six percent. Robberies and felony assaults are down 44 percent and 14 percent, respectively.