Thieves Target Movie Theater on Broadway, Police Say

Surveillance images of the suspects.

A crime spree at a local AMC movie theater has police on the alert. A group of men have been swiping bags from moviegoers at the AMC at 1998 Broadway between 67th and 68th, according to a police bulletin.

“After removing the victim’s bags, the victims [were] notified that credit cards were used at various stores citywide,” the bulletin said.

Nine such incidents have been reported between July 6 and December 16.

Anyone with information in regard to the identity of the individuals is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or on Twitter @NYPDTips.

NEWS | 40 comments | permalink
    1. Ellie Steinman says:

      OMG!! We were there on NY Eve.😡😡😡

    2. StevenCinNYC says:

      What are they doing and how are they doing it, especially if the theatre and the police know who they are? Are they buying tickets and stealthily stealing bags from people while they’re watching a movie?

      • Steph says:

        They sit behind people and reach under the seat for bags that are on the floor. They take out the credit cards and put the wallet back. It’s been going on for months. They go from movie to movie on one ticket as it’s a multiplex. It’s usually when the theater is fairly empty and they can change seats.

      • Deputy Inspector Malin says:

        This is pretty much correct, though, to be clear, although we have surveillance video, we have not identified them yet.

        They are either sneaking in or buying tickets, sitting behind people who place their jackets/purses/bags on the empty seat next to them, and then swiping them in the dark.

        We’ve been tracking the movies and showtimes during which they have been striking, and have tried plainclothes operations to catch them in the act… but it is really, really hard to do. There are so many movies and showtimes throughout the day, having cops in the right theater, at the right time, is, no pun intended, a shot in the dark.

        We have some investigative leads, and we’ll see where that takes us. In the mean time, the best thing to do is share this story to foster increased awareness.

        • Joey says:

          How many instances went unreported & how many were marked as lost property?

          • Deputy Inspector Malin says:

            None were classified as lost property.

            And are you really asking me how many incidents went unreported?

            • Joey says:

              How many incidents went unreported is a rhetorical question. I Wouldn’t expect you to actually know how many went unreported but undoubtably some have.
              As far as being reported as lost property there are incidents when a person discovers property missing & he/she for whatever reason reports it as lost or doesn’t report it to the police at all and just notifies the bank or takes some other action. There have also been incidents where a person tried to report a larceny and the person was unable to articulate how the property was stolen & was compromised by the police to report it as lost. Ostensibly to keep the crime statistics low.

        • Ted says:

          Would it be useful for the theater to install IR cameras in the auditoriums so that tape could be checked to get more info on the how and the when?

          • Woody says:

            Wouldn’t it be easier for people to safeguard their belongings by not leaving them on the seat or floor? A lot cheaper and more effective than installing IR cameras everywhere which might possibly solve a crime after the fact.

    3. The Truth says:

      The city is soft on crime like the old days. The new no bail legislation emboldens criminals. It will only get worse. This is what political correctness gets you. Where is the security in the theatre? It seems like AMC is penny pinching. There is often no one in the lobby at night. I was there one night a month ago when someone said she got robbed and the police did very little.

      • Evan Bando says:

        The first part of your comment about bail reform is both premature and baseless. But undeniably AMC is responsible for security on their own premises to monitor people coming and going into different screening rooms. Check tickets. Have professional lobby security to respond. Train staff to be alert to the surroundings. This used to be standard operating procedure. It’s a theater management problem. (I guess AMC is waiting for an armed robbery.) It is not the responsibility of the NYPD to patrol movie theaters. In the meantime, do like your mother told you and watch your stuff.

      • Steve says:

        Could it be that crime is going up because the tone is being set at the top. A President who does what he wants instead of following the laws and gets away with it is showing Americans that crime pays!

    4. Watto says:

      A couple of years ago, I stupidly had my bag on the seat next to me. I was so absorbed in the movie that I never saw a man open my bag, take out my wallet and remove $400 which I had just gotten from an ATM (he put the wallet back in the bag!). When we got to dinner, I took out my wallet to pay and discovered that I had no money! I called the theater and was told “oh no, he did it again!” and that’s it. I called the 20th Precinct who said they could do nothing unless I knew the serial numbers on the bills. Lesson learned – my bag never leaves my lap!

    5. Christine E says:

      Why did it take 9 crimes for the police to alert the public? After 2-3 incidents, a pattern is established!

      • Deputy Inspector Malin says:

        Actually, we’ve been discussing and working on this for months. We’ve even got the theater to run PSA‘s before every film telling patrons to guard their property.

    6. ST says:

      The public wasn’t informed before now? That AMC is gonna lose business. And Deputy Inspector Malin of the 20th assured everyone in October Community Meeting that crime was not up.

      • Anthony says:

        People in a panic about the rise of crime need to keep a few things in mind.

        there’s cameras everywhere so we SEE more crime. in the 80s and 90s, cameras were not nearly as common. now all buildings and businesses have multiple cameras because they are incredibly cheap.

        Also, there’s the internet and smartphones. which means you see the videos and find out about the crime when before you didn’t.

        Crimes that before weren’t serious enough to warrant newspaper or TV coverage (like this piece about minor thefts) now gets covered by blogs like this. Not saying this is a bad thing, it’s a good thing because it’s more likely they’ll be caught.

        just because you see and hear about crime more often doesn’t mean the crime rate is up.

      • Woody says:

        Are people really that clueless and lame that they’re not able to take care of themselves and need someone else to constantly look after them? It’s idiotic to blame anyone (NYPD, AMC) but themselves when something like that happens.

    7. lynn says:

      I haven’t been to the AMC since last summer but the theater I was in was nearly empty and no one was sitting behind me. About 20 minutes into the movie an elderly man with a cane tried navigating to a seat in the dark. I actually got up to help him out, my purse was hanging on the cup holder next to my seat, and you guessed it, I realized my wallet was gone after I left the theater. As for guards, I have never been able to find an employee on the floor (except at the concession) once the movie starts. I thought it was a random event so it is shocking to read that this entire group was going from theater to theater without being noticed. 🙁

    8. Janice Barandes says:

      If they are watching the these auditoriums, it should be easy to spot people coming in and out at the wrong times. they have some picture of possible suspects.. so it’s time to get these guys..

    9. moviegoer says:

      AMC has enabled the thieves. In recent years staff has been drastically reduced, including some faithful longtime employees who knew the ropes. Robots now sell the tickets. There’s rarely anyone at the “concierge”(customer service) desk upstairs, or anyone outside the theaters (except at the expanded, profitable concessions) when a problem occurs. Even low-level thieves could spot the opportunities created there.

      • Woody says:

        What is a minimum wage theater usher going to do to stop crime? You sound like the people who entirely trust their well-being and safety to a lone doorman in a building or an MTA person sitting in an fortified booth. Chalk one up for false sense of security.

        • HelenD says:

          AMC used to have employees stand outside the doors of each theater, holding the doors, sitting or standing in the back of the theater, walking the aisles, and then opening the doors when the show was over, THANKING people for coming to the show, and then cleaning out the theater before the next group came along. Of course ONE PERSON isn’t going to stop crime, but even one or two staff members would make a difference, as was already pointed out, because they would SEE that ‘guests’ are going in and out of the theaters during the shows. Do people still use walkie talkies? If not, then maybe cell phones, to alert other staff members, or anyone in charge, that something is not as it should be. The business should share in the responsibility and no one should ever have to walk into a theater, store or restaurant EXPECTING to be robbed.

    10. stu says:

      This is not new. It is an easy crime of opportunity that has happened almost as long as movie theaters have existed. It happened to my grandparents 70 years ago! I would NEVER leave my wallet/valuables out in a dark movie theater. Keep you wallet/phone/money is your pockets or on your lap. I am shocked that others are so cavalier about it. Yes, the theater should (and does) have security) but I do not think it is the theater’s duty to spend even more resources to prevent a crime that the victims can prevent themselves.

      • Concerned Citizen says:

        This theater has security? Not that I’ve ever noticed.

        • geoff says:

          Is it possible to imagine what incentive would prompt a ‘security’ guard making $10 an hour to chase, catch and hold a suspect under ANY circumstances? Especially one without medical benefits?

    11. Diane Gurien says:

      For a very long time, when I’ve gone to the AMC theater in question, I do not carry a purse. I have my credit card, photo ID and MetroCard in one pants pocket. Keys and minimal amount of cash in another. I’ve found that travelling ‘light’ is much less stressful.

      I’m an older lady and would be a perfect target for these hooligans. I try my best to give them no temptation. I also make a point of not using my cell phone on the subway, for pretty much the same reason(s), although I realize mine is perhaps an overly cautious/paranoid reaction.

      It’s sad that one has to think and live so defensively, but that’s the way it is.

    12. m.pipik says:

      It’s amazing to me, a life-long NYer, how people no longer have “street smarts.” I see so many younger women with open purses that are ripe for picking and the men carrying wallets or phones in their back pockets.

      This is especially silly on subways and buses which are crowded. Someone can easily pick your pocket and you’d be none the wiser.

      They don’t seems to understand that you still shouldn’t leave anything that can be carried off with (or ridden off) unattended anywhere in the city.

      Places such as AMC don’t care about petty theft. After all, it’s not their money that was stolen.

      • Kayson212 says:

        Amen — there are some rules of self-preservation that every NYer should know. Don’t leave a bag on the seat next to you or on the floor at a theater. Don’t leave it hanging on the back of your chair at a restaurant. Don’t dangle it from your arm and stagger along the street head-down trying to read text messages. Don’t load your arms with so many packages and bags that you haven’t got a free hand. And always, always carry some cash and an ID in your pocket.

    13. payattention says:

      While crime “appears” to be on the rise the use of common sense continues to rapidly decline! Pay attention to your surroundings and keep your personal items close to your person…anywhere! Security could ALWAYS be better but stop relying on others to take care of you in this rough and tumble city.

    14. Celia says:

      There was an assault there 30 minutes ago… We need more police presence. We need safety measures, and we need more patrols.

    15. Joanne Silverman says:

      Don’t they look exactly like others in the area using similar nefarious means to commit misdeeds?

    16. PM says:

      I recently tried to write a complaint to AMC that this cinema is dangerously understaffed….not a single employee to be found on the ground floor, and often none on the other floors. Popcorn sellers, that’s all. I sent my complaint to them at their complaint address….and It came back, undeliverable. What are they thinking? (Not of our safety, for sure.). It is astonishing that after the first of these incidents (which I didnt know about) they didnt add security. !!!!!

    17. JS says:

      It is worth noting that AMC has installed additional self-serve ticketing kiosks and reduced staff at many of its theaters.

      This is problematic in many ways, including security.

      The 42nd Street theater with many “nooks and crannies” is especially creepy with no one in sight.
      the original design/architecture assumed there would be people around….

    18. Jim says:

      Crime seems up. Standing in duane reade last night and kids that look like these suspects are stuffing their backpacks with stuff while the manager watches. I won’t feel bad when they close that store and those clerks are out of work.

      • HelenD says:

        Which location? I’ve witnessed thefts at the DR on both 68th and 72nd. The employees were well aware of what was happening. The basement level at the store on 68th is just too isolated and the layout is like a maze. While I was on line (ground level) there was a lot of commotion and the cashier was calling for ‘assistance in the makeup aisle,’ while one person stole items and her partner held the door open for her and he started shouting at the cashier. Maybe that call was a code but I didn’t see any police show up. Haven’t been back there since. Not a great feeling to be standing 10 feet from the door and knowing you can’t get out of it. :p

    19. Allison says:

      A very similar thing happened to me a year ago at the AMC Village 7 in the East Village. We worked with the NYPD and they were able to make an arrest using video surveillance from the stores where the credit cards were used.