A teenaged sneak thief who plagued east Bronx stores and restaurants pilfering purses was behind bars after a short but productive robbery spree.
Local merchants and a sharp eyed detective worked together to make a fast arrest after the thief’s spree was identied by cops as a robbery pattern and merchants provided security camera photos of the suspect.
Police charged Demont Christian, 18, with entering several shops and restaurants along E. Tremont Avenue in Throggs Neck and in Westchester Square, where he stole credit cards from unattended purses. In one brazen robbery, he also stole car keys – and the car outside, abandoning it in Manhattan.
The smooth talking, brazen thief hit at least nine locations since mid-April, striking up conversations saying he was waiting for his mother, then lifting credit cards and other valuables from unattended pocketbooks and counters.
Among the locations he’s hit were the Throggs Neck Clipper, a local carpet store, and cafe, Frank Bee, Throggs Neck Urgent Care, and the Mobil gas station at Bruckner Blvd. where he stole an attendant’s cell phone.
“In three cases, they just basically kicked him out,” said the police source. “When he was confronted at one store walking out with an umbrella, he told them ‘Hey, it’s just an umbrella.”
Armed with a photo of the suspect from a security camera, police quickly put together a wanted poster that was plastered all over the neighborhood.
It also helped Detective Paul Maldonado of the 45th Precinct’s detective unit finally slap the cuffs on Christian on Thursday, May 16 when he and another cop out cruising near Westchester Square suddenly spotted the suspect.
“That’s him!” Maldonado yelled as they spotted Christian walking along Westchester Avenue.
After a brief chase into a laundromat near Rowland Street, where the suspect tried to escape out a side door, Maldonado and Police Officer Reginald Williams of the squad’s robbery team placed him under arrest.
Police said Christian, who said he was homeless, gave his last known address at 9 Pine Street, Staten Island.
After being ID’d in lineups by several of his victims and waiving his Miranda rights, he made full statements in writing and on video. He was then charged with four counts of grand larceny, five counts of petit larceny, burglary and criminal possession of stolen property.
Judge Steven Hornstein set bail at $75,000 cash or bond on Christian, whose next court date is June 12.
“Great News, the suspect was caught!” John Cerini, secretary of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association said in an email blast sent out to members.
“Amazing how this community worked together to quickly catch the criminal. Thanks again to all of you who have responded and gave me information on your store robberies. This is an important part of our Merchants Association, communication is KEY.”
Because it took awhile for the merchants – and then police – to establish the robbery pattern, Cerini said his group will now think about setting up some kind of alert system so that one merchant who has been robbed can quickly notify all when such incidents happen.