Lock your car doors, and hope for the best.
That’s about all car owners in yet another east Bronx neighborhood can do as they scramble to slam the brakes on petty crime after the latest rash of thefts to rock the area – a spree of rearview mirrors stolen over the weekend.
A week after police at the 45th Precinct in Throggs Neck warned of a rash of car break-ins and thefts in Country Club and Waterbury-LaSalle, bandits in the nearby Indian Village section of Morris Park stripped the rearview mirrors off at least 10 vehicles during the night of Saturday April 26 and early morning Sunday April 27.
Long time problem
The spree touched parts of Hering, Rhinelander and Tenbroeck avenues within the 49th Precinct, said Peter Enea, a local who has been tallying the damage, and Joe Reda, public safety chair of local Community Board 11.
Longtime locals said dealing with car break-ins, stolen mirrors and other vehicle-related crimes has become a part of living in the quiet residential neighborhood.
Joe Sbuttoni, who lives at Hering and Van Nest Avenues, said his black Chevy Traverse has already been stripped of its mirrors twice within the last few months, including last weekend.
Sbuttoni said his other car, a minivan, has been hit at least four times since he moved to the nabe in 2001. In one case, bandits stripped off his signal lights.
“This neighborhood has been targeted for thefts as long as I’ve lived here,” said Sbuttoni. “I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because we have good stuff.”
Cops on it
The Four-Nine is aware of the issue, and is urging residents to make sure that they lock their car doors, and remove credit card statements and other important documents from their dashboards.
The precinct has seen numerous cases of car owners being struck after bandits simply opened an unlocked door and stole money, documents and even loose change.
“We’ve had cases where they break in and take the loose change off the dashboard,” Four-Nine crime prevention officer Tyrone Mederos said at the 49th Precinct Community Council meeting Tuesday, April 29. “That’s how bad it has gotten.”
In the case of the stolen mirrors, however, just locking the car doors is not enough. “You feel so gullible and helpless,” said local Peter Enea, “and that’s what bothers us the most.”
Spike in petty crime
The 4-9 boasts one of the lowest violent crime rates in the city – but petty larcenies, which include thefts of items like car mirrors that are below $1000 in value, are up a whopping 53 percent in 2014 through April 20 –even before last weekend’s spree – according to the police’s Compstat reports.
The crimes have jumped from 245 last year to 375 this year. And the police’s statistics only count the cases where locals even bothered to file a police report.
Sbuttoni said he didn’t even bother reporting this weekend’s crime. He instead bought a pair of used mirrors for just under $200 at a Hunt’s Point junkyard.
Some locals would like to see increased police patrols in the area.
“I hate to say it, but these criminals see there’s no police presence,” said Al Lindenberg, who lives with his family on Pierce Avenue. “We’ve had all sorts of robberies, and yet you never see cop cars.”
Enea suggested that neighbors maybe band together and form a watchdog group to keep an eye on the bandits.
“In our neighborhood, if anyone’s out in the streets at this time, late at night” he said, “they are most likely up to no good.”