Police are warning Pelham Bay subway riders and residents to be on the alert for a gang of knife-wielding ski-masked robbers.
The gang has been striking victims within a four-to-five block radius of the subway station there since last month.
They said the robbery crew, believed to have made their get away by car on to the nearby highways, threatened and robbed four victims since what police believe was the first incident back on Saturday, Feb. 16.
None of the victims, in their late teens, were physically hurt, but police are concerned any future robberies could escalate into serious violence.
Police said the first incident occurred Feb. 18 when two males walking along E. 197th Street between the Hutchinson River Parkway service road and Hobart Avenue were approached about 10:30 p.m. by three males wearing ski masks and threatened at knifepoint. The trio got away with an iPhone from one of the victims.
The second robbery occurred a week later, on Monday, Feb. 25, just across from the Pelham Bay subway station about 9 p.m. when three robbers approached a victim in front of 3289 Westchester Ave. across from the subway station, displayed what the victim described as a large knife and ordered him to hand over his cell phone before the trio fled, possibly in a car waiting nearby.
The last incident reported to police happened last week, about four blocks from the subway station, about 10:25 p.m. on Saturday, March 2 at the northeast corner of Edison and Wilkinson avenues when the victim told police three robbers were involved, with one of them pressing a sharp object in his back. They made off with an undetermined amount of cash, police said.
Police at the local 45th Precinct are on heightened alert for the robbery team, and are asking anyone with possible information to call (718) 822-5411.
They are also warning late night subway riders leaving the station and local residents to be alert to their surroundings, and if approached, to cooperate and avoid resisting rather than face injury.
They should immediately call 911 to report the crime.
“People have to be aware of their surrounding, not just walking and talking or texting on their phones,” advised Bob Bieder, president of the 45th Precinct Community Council. “If they can, also not be walking alone.”
He said now that a robbery pattern has been recognized by the precinct, “they are taking the necessary measures to try to catch these guys.”
Commuters and local residents at the Pelham Bay Station during the evening rush-hour commute Tuesday, March 5 said that they felt safe coming home later in the evening.
“I have never felt unsafe, even late at night,” said commuter Becky Brown of City Island, who waits at the station for the Bx29 bus, sometimes as late at 11 p.m.
Bill Santen, another commuter for City Island, said that he did not see evidence of drug dealing and that the area seemed safe, except for the occasional panhandler.
Pelham Bay resident Steve Arnold, who was near the station on Westchester Avenue, said he feels safe in the community but always takes the precaution of being aware of his surroundings.
“It is pretty good, but you have got to keep your eyes open,” he said. “People walk around talking on their cell phones and not paying attention, and some people take advantage of the situation.”
The latest numbers available on the NYPD website show robberies in the 45th Precinct are down 12.5% so far this year as of Feb. 24, with 28 recorded robberies compared to 32 at the same time last year.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393