A police officer and two Upper West Siders chased down a man who police say was stealing packages from a building on West 76th street. It all went down around noon on Wednesday on West 76th between Central Park West and Columbus. Hear the tale told below by local resident Joseph Bolanos:
“As some of you know, recently our area has been victimized by a serial burglary spree by a person, or persons, unknown. Earlier today [Wednesday], a couple of local police officers came by while I was sitting on my stoop to discuss the ongoing lobby package burglaries in the area. I was watching the block because some thefts have occurred recently, on Wednesday & Thursday.
As I was sitting on the stoop, I noticed a male Hispanic that I had seen on the block previously and I had noted his presence on the block. As recent as two days ago I had spotted the individual on the block. I had noted that he was pretending to be a “locksmith card dropper.” These are individuals who leave locksmith cards in building lobbies as solicitations.
I watched the subject enter building 38 near me. He had a backpack that was pretty flat (empty) as he entered the building. When 2 minutes passed, I left my stoop to check the bldg vestibule from the sidewalk. I could see the subject trying to push the locked, inner door of the vestibule. I didn’t have time for the 911 Q&A delays that you get when you call so I called one of the officers that I had spoken with earlier. I told him what I saw and suspected.
The officer stated that he was on his way (scooter). Meanwhile the suspect was now leaving 38 bldg and his backpack was full and sagging. Minutes later, the police officer (J. VinCek) arrived in the area and approached and questioned the individual. Subject talked with the officer and presented ID. Then the subject began to feign some sort of seizure and the officer walked him onto the shady part of the sidewalk.
I was watching during the entire time. When police officer opened the suspect’s backpack he pulled out a black package ((box). After reading the label, the officer instructed the subject to turn around in order to handcuff him. The suspect started screaming and fled the scene, running at top speed towards Columbus Ave & 76. The officer and myself and two neighbors were in pursuit. On the corner of Columbus Avenue & 76th Street we caught up to the perp who was resisting being handcuffed
We assisted the officer in subduing the perp to the ground where he was handcuffed. Minutes later, about 5-6 NYPD cars arrived in response to the call by the officer. The box turned out a package of a 38 bldg resident that was delivered earlier.
This was an amazing convergence of events. We were very lucky. And even luckier that this perp was on my radar since a few days ago.
Kudos to PO Vincek for his amazingly fast response. I am recommending him to 1 Police Plaza for a commendation for his fine work today. I still suspect that there may be other perps in the area using the same modus operandi. We will remain alert until further notice.”
A police spokesman says the man arrested is named Tony Rivera, a 52-year-old homeless man. He was charged with possession of burglar’s tools, petit larceny, resisting arrest, possession of stolen property, and possession of a controlled substance. The spokesman said Rivera had “an alleged crack pipe with alleged residue inside.” The arrest was made at 12:47 p.m. in front of 60 West 76th street.
Photos by Joseph Bolanos.