Riverside Bandits Finally Nabbed

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:16

Precinct commander says officers made arrests of juveniles who were stealing bags

Upper West Side Captain Marlon Larin kicked off the fall meeting of the 24th Precinct Community Council with some good news. He believes his officers have largely stemmed the tide of recent grand larcenies that plagued Riverside Park and the athletic fields around Booker T. Washington Middle School, he told a group of Upper West Siders at the meeting.

Larin said his precinct received 12 reports of grand larcenies at both locations over the summer. It appears, he said, that groups of youths from nearby housing projects were snatching unattended bags and valuables like laptops and cell phones in a somewhat sophisticated operation that included lookouts.

At Riverside Park, the youths would hide in the hedgerows and prey on park goers who were sunbathing or sitting on benches with their bags nearby.

At Booker T.'s soccer fields, youths would steal unattended bags while their owners were on the field.

After several of these reports, Larin said he assigned both uniformed and plainclothes officers to patrol both sites. The operation netted eight arrests between the two sites, five at Riverside Park and three at Booker T. None of those arrested were over the age of 16.

Help also came from the community. In one case, a soccer coach at Booker T. had his team take friendly photos with some shady-looking characters who were casing the soccer field. Larin said his officers used the photos to identify suspects who were later caught with stolen property.

"They thought in their mind they were befriending future targets," said Larin of the suspects. "We were watching them working the field one day and we were able to apprehend them with stolen property."

Larin said the suspects, some as young as 12, had no fear of law enforcement, and that he believes youths from nearby housing projects heard through word of mouth that there were easy targets at both locations and decided to capitalize. He believes, however, that his officers put an end to the spree.

"We're confident we shut that down," said Larin.

Captain James Dennedy said the department issued 116 summonses for speeding on Broadway in a four-week operation that coincided with the speed limit being lowered on Aug. 4 from 30 to 25 miles per hour.

The department is set to conduct a similar operation when the same speed reduction occurs on Amsterdam Avenue on Nov. 11. While the targeted operations have a four-week life span, the speed limit on Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue will remain at 25 miles per hour indefinitely.

Dennedy also announced the precinct is participating in a citywide back-to-school initiative aimed at nabbing motorists who illegally pass buses that are stopped while dropping kids off, and that unmarked vehicles will be used in the operation.

The neighborhood has had a number of pedestrian fatalities this year, and Larin said that enforcement and education campaigns on traffic safety will continue.

Robberies in the precinct are down 67 percent over this time last year, while felony assaults are down 86 percent. Burglaries are up 50 percent, and grand larcenies are down 46 percent.

Larin said although the precinct has seen a 9 percent overall increase in index crimes (murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto), he expects the precinct to finish strong.

"I anticipate we will finish the year with an overall reduction [in crime]," he said.