A trip to drop off supplies to a local hair salon almost became a New Year’s Eve tragedy.
A 32-year-old local man parked his light blue 2007 Honda Odyssey outside the store at 3605 E. Tremont Avenue near Lafayette Avenue to drop off supplies, leaving three children, ages 12, 8, and 1 in the backseat of the minivan with the motor running at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 31. An as of yet unidentified black male, about six-feet-tall, jumped into the car and sped away, said 45th Precinct Captain Russell Green.
The Odyssey was found blocks away on E. Tremont and Otis avenues, with the children still in the backseat unharmed, Green said.
“We believe that this was a crime of opportunity,” Green said. “He saw the keys in the car, took the car, and left it at Otis and E. Tremont avenues when he saw that there was kids inside.”
Police do not believe that the incident is related to any other crimes occurring in the borough at the time, and believe that the perpetrator did not realize that there were children in the backseat of the car when he stole it, Green said. The children were not touched by the perpetrator, Green said.
The father of the children, after realizing that the car had been stolen, walked into the 45th Precinct and told the desk sergeant what had happened, Green said.
The precinct immediately notified the aviation unit, which sent helicopters to canvass the area. The car was found shortly after the search began, Green said.
A K-9 unit was also enlisted to go search the area along the Bruckner Expressway service road, Edison Avenue, Greene Place, and Otis Avenue, but the dogs did not get a strong scent from the car, Green said. A source said that backyards of homes on those blocks were also searched by the K-9 unit.
The NYPD is currently processing the car for evidence, prints, and DNA, with results still pending, Green said. The incident should serve as a powerful reminder that children, the most important valuables of all, should not be left in an automobile unattended, Green said.
“It is never advisable to leave children in the car unattended, and it definitely not advisable to ever leave your kids in a car that is running,” Green said. “This is should be a an eye opener and reminder. Thank God the kids were fine, no one was hurt and the car was recovered and nothing worse happened.”
According to sources, the driver was brought to the 45th Precinct, where he underwent questioning, as did the children. Charges were not preferred against the dad after the NYPD legal division and Bronx D.A.’s office declined to prosecute.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393