‘Mirror Stripping’ is the Upper West Side’s Newest Crime Trend


20th Precinct Community Council President Sean Grissom speaks at this week’s meeting, as Police Commissioner James O’Neill (in blue suit) and others listen.

By Michael McDowell

Crime continues to plunge on the Upper West Side, and although the 20th Precinct can no longer claim the steepest year to date decline in the city — it’s now second — the good news is that first place has been assumed by the adjacent 24th Precinct.

“This good run that the Upper West side is on, it just continues, and between 59th Street and up to 110th Street, we’ve seen a big a reduction in crime this year,” Deputy Inspector Timothy Malin told a full house at Monday night’s Community Council, at the 20th. (The 20th covers 59th to 86th Street and the 24th covers 86th to 110th.)

“Scholars debate why crime rises or falls, but sometimes I don’t question a good thing,” he added. Crime is down 29% for the year in the 20th, a reduction visible in regularly updated CompStat reports, available here. Reports for the 24th may be found here.

However, and as we’ve previously reported, car break-ins continue. “They’re happening all over the precinct,” Malin said.

And the nature of these break-ins is changing. Don’t Google it, but “mirror stripping” has hit the Upper West Side, and the 20th has recorded more of this type of incident than any other precinct in Manhattan North.

What’s mirror stripping?

Newer model luxury vehicles—brands like Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, BMW, Audi, and Lexus—feature valuable side view mirrors with built-in cameras, which are often worth over $2,000.

“Last week, from Thursday to Sunday, we had six cars between 72nd and 74th on Riverside have their mirrors taken off entirely,” Malin said.

He’s concerned and has moved resources to the area, which isn’t well-lit and lacks surveillance camera coverage.

Owners of such vehicles could consider simple prevention measures, such as dashboard cameras that record video even when a car is parked.

“People tend to ignore car alarms nowadays, but if you hear one going off in the middle of the night, take a look, and if you see something suspicious, call 911,” Malin said.

Other neighborhood issues?

For those who may have noticed the recent appearance of a homeless encampment under scaffolding at 74th and Amsterdam: Lieutenant Tony Burgio has orchestrated five multi-agency clean-ups, which have included Sanitation, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and Emergency Medical Services.

“The scaffolding that is protecting that encampment should be down in about a month,” Malin said. “When the scaffolding goes away and the rain comes down, it’s no longer going to be an attractive location.”

Community Council meetings are open to all, and are held on a monthly basis: the fourth Monday at 7 p.m. at the 20th, and the third Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the 24th, unless otherwise indicated.

NEWS | 40 comments | permalink
    1. Sean says:

      Why would you park a luxury vehicle overnight on a city street? Isn’t this what garages are for?

      • Zanarkand says:

        You are so right…if you can afford the luxury car, then you have to be able to afford to park it in a garage. You have to think about that when you purchase the car and roll it into the cost. I saw someone park overnight a BMW i8 sports car…like c’mon really?

        • Drew says:

          I think the city should ban luxury cars why should anyone be allowed to have one..
          Have you ever looked at the price of a garage? I think they should ban garages because the owners are making way to much money. I think everything should be banned that people dont like..

      • Rachel says:

        The average garage rent for a luxury SUV in the neighborhood is well over $1000 a month. That’s not affordable to most!

      • Ish Kabibble says:

        That’s quite a viewpoint. If you have a nice car, you shouldn’t park on the street? Just silly. We all can and should be able to park for free, no matter what kind of car you drive. Now, I do favor neighborhood parking passes to keep out non-residents of the area, but that’s a discussion for another article.

        • Sarcastic Sid says:

          Wow!! This is great news. I’ve been paying for storage for my personal belongings ever since I moved to NYC. Where do I sign up to get free storage of my personal belongings???

    2. Kat French says:

      I walk past the “homeless encampment” all the time and they just mind their own business and are no threat. Any panhandling is low-key and they do not block pedestrians. I hope these neighbors of ours are open to mental health intervention but, if not, I hope the police don’t harass them. It’s such a heartbreaking situation to see so many people with an inability to cope beyond basic survival.

      • Judy says:

        Kat, I also walk by the homeless encampment often and find the verbal harassment from the blond man offensive. He yells vulgar comments about my body, laughs, and is often blocking the sidewalk. I appreciate your compassion toward the group but certainly you can understand why I personally can’t wait for them to take over a sidewalk elsewhere.

        • AJ says:

          I was looking for your comment. I pass there a lot and very often hear the aggressive yelling. I avoid that side of the street and walk on the opposite side (also has scaffolding on it). NYPD needs to clear that encampment immediately. This sends the message that scaffolding is essentially a free for all.

        • W76 says:

          The blonde man has been in and out of the neighborhood for nearly a decade, that I know of. He has consistently been very verbally offensive, screaming terrible things at people and making violent threats. I have seen him punch people before and, even just the other day, screaming and throwing things at people. Passing him under the scaffolding where he has set makes me uneasy that he could have a “moment” and I wouldn’t have any place to move. I actively avoid the area when out with my 2.5yo in case he suddenly has another violent outburst. It is sad; he is clearly very sick.

          • Thomas says:

            Agree- that man is far from harmless and has harassed my children and I many times. He is clearly very sick and I think it’s in everyone best interest for him to be hospitalized before he hurts someone.
            I am thrilled the police are finally intervening.

    3. D.I. Malin says:

      I used a lot of police jargon when talking to the WSR, so it led to one bit of confusion, and I have one small correction:

      We don’t have more mirror thefts than any other precinct in the City, but more thefts than any other precinct in this particular pattern, which includes 16 incidents and affects six different precincts in Manhattan, all of them North of 59th Street. Seven of the 16 incidents occurred here in the 20th Precinct.

      So at the moment, addressing this is my top priority.

    4. ST says:

      FYI Compstat reports that citywide year-to-date 2019 versuse 2018, murders are up 7.6%, shooting incidents are up 9.5%, rapes are up 10.7% and Misdemeanor Sex Crimes are up a whopping 33.6%.
      Burglary and auto theft are down about 13 plus % each.

      To me with all the retail stores that are shutttered and restaurants that come and go, I just don’t feel as safe walking around the UWS at night as I used to.

      For those interested, the 24th Precinct is holding “Build the Block” meeting on Neighborhood Policing and Safety for Sector B of the 24th. This is a discusion meeting on public safety challenges in the neighborhood. Sector B includes the East Side of Broadway to Central Park West and from the North side of West 86th St. to West 110th St.
      The meeting is on Saturday May 18th at Middle School 256M (Auditorium) 154 West 93rd St. Doors open at 10:00 am and the meeting begins at 10:30am.

      If you live in sector B and have safety concerns, this is your chance to raise them.

      • Chuck D says:

        Can this discussion include the pell-nell parking in front of the 24th precinct? I’d bring it up myself, but I don’t want the cops hassling me for revenge.

    5. AT says:

      Won’t they just find new scaffolding to live under?

    6. Gwen Long says:

      The question on our minds should not be when the homeless people will be “cleaned up” from their “attractive location” but how we will address the problem of homelessness and take care of the most vulnerable among us. What about tackling this in a separate article?

    7. Gwen Long says:

      Also, while you may not have intended there to be a link between the mirror-stripping story and the homeless story, writing about the two issues together implies that the homeless people may be responsible. Truth be told, in these times of staggering economic inequality, if a homeless person were to take a $2,000 sideview mirror, I might consider him/her to be a modern Jean Valjean.

      • wlr says:

        There is no suggestion that the homeless are stealing the mirrors in this article. The article is reporting on issues discussed at the meeting. There are also quite a few more menacing characters in the neighborhood that are not peacefully sitting under the encampment that should be dealt with and are not and are constant threatening presence (see person on 79th and Broadway and person in front of Victoria’s Secret at 85th and Broadway).Also, the fact you would be ok with a theft and damage of property undertaken by a homeless person, or anyone in fact, is disturbing. People should be able to park their cars, luxury brand or not, on the street.

      • WestsideJack says:

        Oh please. Jean Valjean was ready willing and able to work… If members of this encampment have mental problems, that’s different – they need help which the city is not providing. However the ones who are young and lazy, call out Javert.

      • Ish Kabibble says:

        Ha! Well said, Gwen!

    8. Miles says:

      Mirror strippo! I didn’t know it existed. But two month’s ago, someone stole the outer plastic shell from my mirror! Were they trying to take the whole piece?

    9. Dave O. says:

      “Scholars debate why crime rises or falls, but sometimes I don’t question a good thing” – typical police response. They have no idea if the crime rate drops due to lower unemployment or due to something the police does, or due to something else. But they will take credit. They do not want to understand the cause/effect relationship.

      • D.I. Malin says:

        Dave- I’m not sure how you have extrapolated all of that from a single quote. If you were at the meeting, you would have known that I specifically stated that it would be improper for the police to take credit for the current crime decline.

        Having studied criminal justice at the masters’ level at the Kennedy School, and at the doctoral level closer to home at John Jay, I can tell you that there is no consensus amongst scholars – many far more talented than myself – about what drives crime rates. I’ve taken great care to note at my meetings that crime rate can be affected by the work of “system actors” such as the police, corrections, parole, probation, the district attorneys, judges, and federal agencies. It can be affected by external factors that range from unemployment, to foreign investment in real estate, and even the weather.

        You acuse us of being intellectually lazy. We’re not. Quite conversely, we’re acutely aware of criminal justice research methods and the hazards of making attribution errors. I want people to understand that even the world’s best minds have spent lifetimes trying to determine the precise cause and effect of each one of the aforementioned factors on crime rate and have failed to do so. Put simply, I could use my (limited) analytical resources and time to try and solve the enigma of crime rate, or I could use them to try and identify and address local patterns, such as the mirror thefts, as they arise. I choose the latter.

    10. UWS4all says:

      My mirror was stolen while my car was parked on CPW. Yes, I park it on the street. People should be able to park on the street.

    11. Greg Hunt says:

      Is it just me, or does anyone else feel that crime is going up, not down on the UWS? It’s just anecdotal, but it seems that I hear or read about more crimes in our neighborhood than I have in the past several years. I wonder if the crime stats are “massaged” by the mayor’s office in conjunction with the NYPD?

      • Jen says:

        I definitely feel the same regarding assaults and robberies. Don’t want to blame current 20th precinct leadership as it comes across very competent, but a few years ago, even when the response to the crime reporting was very poor (still might be, don’t have experience with new leadership), but it seemed that it was much much safer. And it definitely was. I was able to walk home at night for many blocks, shop at 24 hour stores at night without being nervous. Right now, I have to be much more aware of who is around me even during the day. There are multiple examples of brazen robberies during the day time, and I won’t venture near of any park after dusk.

    12. David says:

      After someone had removed the small colored plastic pieces that protect the turn signal bulbs on the sides of our vehicle, we stopped parking our car on Riverside Drive. That was over 10 years ago.

    13. Onsberg says:

      Where are the metings and is there one at memorial day?

    14. Sara says:

      There is now a homeless encampment on the SW corner of 86th and Amsterdam.

    15. jimbo says:

      There is a homeless encampment in my house.My grown kids will not leave.

    16. Barbara says:

      There is also a homeless man standing on Broadway. and 79th Street medium, holding a bottle of liquor and waving his arms. He walks back and forth yelling as people are walking by.
      Anyway to get him some assistance.

    17. jan_in_nyc says:

      The owners of these luxury cars have to ask themselves: Were your headlights too large? Was your bumper too short? Did you have a flashy paint job? Did you expose too much tire? Were you driving in a sexy way? Let’s face it the thieves had no defense against such a display. Some might say, your car was just asking for it.