NYPD says it’s broken up citywide robbery ring
NEW YORK — Seven migrants were arrested, including several Monday morning in an NYPD raid in the Bronx targeting a crew behind a citywide robbery pattern, the NYPD said.
Police believe they are part of group responsible for a citywide pattern of cellphone robberies. Some of the stolen goods were recovered in the raid, police said.
Police said it all starts with criminals on scooters who steal people’s cellphones, and then hack into them to get access to banking apps.
Surveillance video shows one incident in which a suspect on a scooter grabs a victim’s bag, dragging them to the sidewalk.
The investigation led to a raid and several arrests Monday at an apartment in the Allerton section of the Bronx.
Robbery ring was run by a Venezuelan migrant, police say
Videos provided by the NYPD show suspects working in pairs on mopeds tugging at, and often knocking over, unsuspecting victims to wrestle free iPhones, bags, and wallets.
Police officers, accompanied by Mayor Eric Adams, made multiple arrests in an apartment at 2790 Bronx Park East, described as a stash house or headquarters for a wide-ranging, multi-borough cellphone robbery operation connected to more than a dozen suspects. Many of them are migrants, according to police.
“These small number of people are breaking the law and are having a huge impact on our public safety, and that is why we zeroed in on them,” Adams said. “We’re not going to sit idly by while people choose to prey on their fellow New Yorkers.”
“This administration, police department, we’ve always talked about welcoming asylum seekers. But once you start robbing people and stealing from them, your status is criminal, and you’ll be treated as such,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner Tarik Sheppard said.
“It doesn’t matter if a person is a migrant, asylum or if the person is a long-term New Yorker. You break the law, it’ll be investigated, and it will be handled by our criminal justice system,” Adams said. “You should not be allowed to walk the streets of the city of New York if you are committing any form of criminal behavior that’s impacting the quality of life of New Yorkers.”
The arrests went down in the apartment of Victor Parra, the alleged ringleader, at around 5:30 a.m. Monday. Parra is still at large, police said. Several were arrested, and evidence was recovered.
“So in recent months, a wave of migrant crime has washed over our city. But by no means do the individuals committing these crimes represent the vast number of people coming to New York to build a better life. But they are, nonetheless, preying on New Yorkers and making our city less safe,” NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said.
“I want to reiterate the overwhelming number of 170,000-plus migrants and asylum seekers are attempting to continue their next leg of their journey of pursuing the American dream. But those who commit a crime will be treated like any other criminal in this city. No different mindset, no different reaction, no different response from the police department,” Adams said.
Most migrants come to NYC in search of a better life. Sadly, some come to commit crimes.
While the rest of NYC was sleeping, @NYCMayor @NYPDChiefPatrol@NYPDDetectives joined @NYPDnews investigators & specialized teams as we carried out a search warrant — booming a door and… pic.twitter.com/1KkTHQ6HYC
— NYPD Assistant Commissioner Kaz Daughtry (@NYPDDaughtry) February 5, 2024
Crooks used scooters for snatch-and-grab robberies, police say
“We believe the individuals involved have been involved in 62 robbery incidents across our city, including our transit system. Including riding on mopeds, scooters, and snatching property of New Yorkers, such as iPhones and wallets. These individuals do not have a license to steal in our city,” Adams said. “Mopeds and scooters are being used for crimes and harming innocent people. I want to be clear, again, the law is coming for those who use mopeds illegally.”
Adams said the NYPD seized more than 2,500 illegal mopeds and scooters last year — a 74% increase over the year prior.
“The crimes in this pattern involved multiple thieves on mopeds, snatching cellphones and purses from victims. These thieves would ride up behind their victims on the sidewalk, steal their property, and then make their getaway. The majority of the victims are women, simply just walking alone. We have seen that the mopeds used in these crimes are also stolen as well,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny said.
Police said the robbery pattern started in November 2023 on the Upper East Side and the most recent incident happened on Sunday night in Chinatown.
“This network of thieves predominantly live in the migrant shelter system. They use social media platforms to organize and coordinate their thefts,” Kenny said.
Authorities said Parra would put out the request on WhatsApp, and that the scooter drivers and thieves may not even know one another.
“Once the messages are received, the crime wave begins, with the scooter operators making $100 a day, and the actual phone snatcher making between $300-600 per phone that is stolen,” Kenny said.
The stolen phones were brought to Parra, who used a “tech guy who is able to hack into these stolen phones, where he gains access to the victim’s financial and banking apps,” Kenny said.
Investigators said the suspects were grabbing phones because they are attracted to payment apps, including Apple Pay. Detectives said suspects used credit cards linked to phones.
Kenny said so far police have identified 14 members of the crew, and that seven had been arrested so far. More arrests are expected.
Authorities said the people arrested have so far not been connected to the recent.
Some Bronx residents said the theft ring worries them, especially for their most vulnerable loved ones and neighbors.
“I’m very scared, and my mother, she’s right there, and it’s very scary for the older people, too,” said Bronx resident Pamela Colon. “It’s not right what they’re doing.”
A “national problem,” Adams says
“This is a national problem. We need a national solution, on both sides of the aisle. Republicans have blocked real immigration reform for many years. It is time for us to deal with this real issue that’s impacting cities, not only New York,” Adams said. “This is a national problem that’s impacting cities. And our message is a clear one: Over 175,000 migrants and asylum seekers that have arrived here, this is 12 people. So any New Yorker that looks at those who are trying to fulfill their next step on the American dream as criminals, that is wrong. That is not what we’re seeing. The overwhelming number of migrants and asylum seekers want to work. They want to contribute to our society. They believe we have put a pause on their progression on contributing to our society. We should not in any way take these criminals and state that they are the indicators of the people who are here.”
“This is not about migrants and asylum seekers. It’s about criminals who committed a crime. And we would treat criminals the same if they’re longstanding New Yorkers, or if they just arrived here last year. These are criminals that we brought to justice,” Adams said.
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First published on February 5, 2024 / 2:41 PM EST
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