By Carol Tannenhauser
On Tuesday night, officers of the 20th Precinct apprehended two alleged robbers who have been terrorizing electric bike — e-bike — riders on the Upper West Side for the past several weeks. Part sting, part high-speed chase, the story of their capture and arrest was told in detail to WSR by Captain Neil Zuber (shown above at a pre-pandemic meeting), commander of the 20th Precinct. Here’s how Captain Zuber described the events.
We had a lot of e-bikes being stolen, not just here, but all around the city. Delivery people use them in large part for delivering food, but they’re very popular with others as well. They’re worth a couple of thousand dollars each.
In the beginning, they stole the bikes when they were left unattended. Then, as they got more brazen, they began pushing people off the bikes, beating them up, and taking the bikes. At least four of our victims were treated in the hospital because they were injured in violent attacks.
Several weeks ago we started realizing a pattern was developing. Victims were talking about two people jumping out of a car. Some were saying a black BMW and some were giving us partial license plate numbers, but it wasn’t enough for our computer system to track.
Then, on Tuesday, September 1st, at about 2 p.m., another person was robbed. Two people jumped out of a BMW, pushed him off his bike, and took the bike. This victim was able to get his phone out and record one of the people who robbed him, but the key thing he did was get a clear picture of the license plate. Using our license plate readers around the city, we were able to track the car as it went to the Bronx, over the 145th Street Bridge. We radioed ahead, but apparently they didn’t go home. So, we waited.
At about 10 o’clock that night, we got an email alert that the car had just come across the bridge from the Bronx and was entering Manhattan. We knew they were coming to the Upper West Side to go shopping. Immediately we sent our people to the area where they always hit us: the west side of the precinct, near Riverside Drive. We put everyone who was working out there. We filled the west side of the precinct with eyes. We also told them, if you see a delivery person, shadow them, because they’re targets and maybe we’ll find them that way.
Murphy’s Law being what it is, that night, for the first time, they did a robbery on the east side of the precinct. The first police car got there about ten minutes after it happened. I jumped into my car. By that time I knew we were behind them. They were already making their way to the bridge. So, I floored it. I put my lights on and headed north on the Henry Hudson Parkway.
I got up to the bridge and there was an unmarked car sitting there. It turned out to be two officers from the 20th Precinct. Without exaggeration, I just had time to put my car in park and turn my headlights off, when the BMW crossed directly in front of us. One of us pulled behind it, the other in front, and we stopped them right there, 100 yards onto the bridge. They were so surprised to see us that there was absolutely no fight. They surrendered right there and we were able to arrest them.
WATCH: E-Bike Robberies- How the NYPD Tracked Down A Culprit.
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) September 5, 2020
That is not the end of the story. Captain Zuber explained that they still don’t know where the bikes are being sold. “We know they’re not using them just to joy ride,” he said. “Now our investigation is taking us to who are the people who are buying them for resale? Who is driving this cottage, black-market industry that’s going on citywide?”
You could hear the excitement in Captain Zuber’s voice. “I have to tell you,” he said, “it was so good going out there and doing the hands-on police work again — so much better than sitting in on Zoom meetings,” he added, laughing. “To have that positive outcome was great. We could have handed it off, but we wanted to be there ourselves to make sure it got done.“
He turned to the question of an alleged “police slowdown.”
“It couldn’t be farther from the truth,” he contended. “There’s no slowdown. These officers want to go out and do the job they signed up to do. This is just proving it.”