Baby-buggy bandit in Ridge

A new predator is prowling local playgrounds and swimming pools, patiently waiting for the instant a distracted mom turns her head, then, in the blink of an eye — gone!

But don’t call Chris Hanson just yet, because these perps are leaving the kids and snagging the strollers.

That’s right, a serial-stroller thief is on the loose in Bay Ridge and nervous moms are beginning to panic over the newly realized vulnerability of their precious baby-mobiles.

It isn’t exactly the Son of Sam, but stroller-paranoia has hit a crescendo.

“Stroller theft is becoming more and more of a problem,” read a posted warning on ISawYourNanny.com, a national clearinghouse for gossip about, well, you can figure it out from the name of the Web site. “To parents and nannies in Bay Ridge, beware; strollers are being snatched left and right!”

The poster had first-hand knowledge of stroller perils; his was swiped last Wednesday. But that was only half as bad as what happened to January Hagan, who had two strollers stolen in one week last month.

“My jogger stroller was stolen just days after my Maclaren stroller was stolen in broad daylight,” Hagan said. “I had been meaning to buy a bike lock, but hadn’t gotten around to it.”

Hagan, who lives on 80th Street near Fourth Avenue, said she had parked her stroller in a concealed spot by her front door, and it was only out of site for a few minutes when she discovered that the buggy bandit had struck again.

“Perhaps someone has been watching me,” said Hagan. “You think I would have learned the first time around. I am just completely devastated that there is someone in this neighborhood stealing strollers.”

Residents of Bay Ridge should get used to it: these aren’t your mother’s baby buggies. Strollers today are big business (true story, my first stroller purchase, a Prego, cost $20 more than my first car — a 1984 Chevy Cavalier that I bought in 1995 for $300.).

A new stroller can cost up to $1,200, and in today’s affluent Bay Ridge, the site of little Madison in a luxury cruiser strolling down Third Avenue has become commonplace.

This rising cost of buggies has created an instant black market for opportunistic thieves looking to make a quick buck.

Some buggy-bandits may even be hawking their goods on Craigslist, which currently has 76 used strollers on sale ranging in price from $100-$600. Another theory is that some kids steal the strollers for the wheels, which, in some high-end buggies, can be used on motorized mini-bikes popular with teens.

Of course, if you are looking to keep your stroller off the black market, prudence is the best remedy.

Cops say that while they have noticed no appreciable rise in reported stroller thefts, common-sense precautions should thwart would-be buggy bandits.

“Keep your eye on your stroller like you would a laptop or any other expensive commodity,” said one officer at the 68th Precinct. “People will steal anything that isn’t tied down.”

Hagan, who replaced both strollers at a net loss of $350, took the advice to heart.

“I have replaced both strollers,” said Hagan. “But now, I either carry my stroller up two flights of stairs every time I return home or I lock it to a pipe with a bike lock and chain.

Lesson learned, but in any case, it appears that the stroller-stealing epidemic will have at least one silver lining. The panic has temporarily cleared doorways of local businesses and apartment buildings of stroller congestion.

Now, if only there would be a serial double-parked car thief!

Matthew Lysiak is a writer who lives in Bay Ridge.

The Kitchen Sink

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