A rash of nighttime burglaries in the 45th Precinct may be targeting Asian-owned businesses.
The precinct is investigating the incidents they believe are were by the same individual, a white-male who is about 35-years-old. The suspect cuts a hole in roll down gates or breaks locks on outside gates to get into the establishments. He has always taken small sums of money. There may be other accomplices.
“The targets have been Chinese food restaurants; one of [the break ins] was a coin-operated Laundromat,” said Ann Marie Morrison, a community affairs officer at the 45th Precinct. “All of the burglaries include something that breaks the gates on the stores. The money taken at each location totals about $200 or $300.”
Morrison said that there were also similar types of break-ins at Asian owned or themed establishments in parts of Soundview, located within the 43rd Precinct. It is not entirely clear if the crimes are perpetrated by the same individual(s).
So far, Throggs Neck Quality Chef at 3573 E. Tremont Avenue was the victim of burglary on March 10. According to sources, China Wok at 1486 Williamsbridge Road in Westchester Square was burglarized on March 13. The same sources indicated Happy Garden Chinese Restaurant in Zerega at 2432 E. Tremont Avenue was hit in on March 18. All were burglaries or burglary attempts.
A worker at Throggs Neck Quality Chef indicated that the Chinese-American community might be targeted because many of the merchants are first generation Americans who do not speak English with great ease.
“Most older Chinese people do not speak English well, and maybe the burglars are thinking that they may not report it to the police,” said Nancy Chen of Throggs Neck Quality Chef. “The language barrier makes it difficult to conduct investigations. It is harder for the police to follow up.”
Chen said that the restaurant has been in operation for about 20 years, and that break-ins of this type were very unusual in Throggs Neck.
“We had to call 911 when we got into work at 5 a.m.,” Chen said. “This was really strange because Throggs Neck is such a decent neighborhood. Some stores don’t even have iron gates in front of their doors.”
Chen speculated that the break-ins might be related to the downturn in the economy, resulting in an increase in crime.
Calls placed to the China Wok and Happy Garden Chinese Restaurant did not yield comments as of press time.