Fulton Mall under siege by shoplifters

Fulton Mall under siege by shoplifters
Photo by Haru Coryne

Cops say crime is down in Downtown Brooklyn, but one local shopping strip didn’t get the memo.

Store owners and customers at the Fulton Mall say they’re beating back a resurgence in all things nefarious, with nearly a dozen criminal complaints being filed there in the past month — nine of which took place in just one week.

But cops in Downtown’s 84th Precinct say they’re collaring more crooks in the popular commercial hub between Flatbush Avenue and Adams Street than last year.

“We are making significantly more arrests,” Captain Vanessa Kight of the 84th Precinct said, referring to shoplifting cases at the Fulton Mall. No arrest figures were available to corroborate Captain Kight’s assertion, since the NYPD doesn’t break down its crime statistics by individual blocks.

Kight wouldn’t say if the increased arrests are a result of a heightened police presence in the area, a bump in banditry, or if the arrests have anything to do with the sprucing up of the Fulton Mall’s image and the subsequent invasion of high-end retailers like Aeropostale. The entire precinct is making a stronger effort to respond quickly to all retailers’ complaints, Kight said.

The Fulton Mall Improvement Association — which is responsible for changing the mall’s image — isn’t commenting either. Thomas Martin, the group’s public safety manager, would not talk about police matters.

But the complaints Fulton Mall shopkeepers have filed with the 84th Precinct offer a telling portrait of what stakeholders have been noticing for some time now.

The crimes that occur are mostly small time, like pickpocketing and shoplifting, but also cover violent crimes, including:

• Some sleight-of-hand work at the Fulton Street Macy’s, where a deft thief pickpocketed $1,000 in Trinidadian dollars from a woman on June 8.

• IPhone thefts — several of which were taken from an AT&T store on June 13.

• A June 14 purse-snatching at slick Fulton Mall newcomer Aeropostale.

• A June 14 brawl inside a Wendy’s, where two rambunctious teens walloped a 24-year-old woman with a combination lock.

• A young, female thief assaulted a 50-year-old security guard inside the Conway department store on June 16, hitting her victim repeatedly with the buckle of her purse.

• A dapper don scammed a poor mark into using a rigged ATM on Adams Street on June 28, then withdrew hundreds from her account.

• An acerbic encounter on July 1 at a beauty salon, where an enraged patron sent an employee to the hospital after dousing her with chemicals.

• A thief at the Rainbow women’s apparel store had the gall to try to steal a $6.99 pair of Aviator sunglasses — while our reporter was standing at the counter!

Jerry Hatcher, a Jimmy Jazz security guard who’s worked the Fulton Mall for 26 years, said area thieves are getting younger, smarter, and more numerous.

“The trend is moving toward little kids,” he said. “You catch a 15 or 16-year-old, what can you do? Call her parents?”

Local shopkeepers say mall crooks routinely change up their tactics to keep clerks on their toes — and many of these cases aren’t reported.

“Someone comes in your store to shoplift, you have to be right on them,” explained Joseph Andrew, a manager at Bed, Bath and Linens, where shoplifting attempts (if not successes) have been climbing. “You don’t give them room to breathe.”

In one such case, Andrew discovered a perp trying to smuggle out a pack of sheets in a baby stroller — underneath his tot!

Explanations for the shoplifting run the gamut, with proprietors fingering high prices, low employment, and even the draw of the latest summer fashions.

“Anytime there’s a change in seasons, there are more thefts,” Hatcher said.

But not everyone is convinced that the newest style of shades is to blame.

“It’s just because of the Recession we’re going through,” said Raheel Ahmad, a manager working at the apparel store Brooklyn U.S.A. “Prices are expensive, and people don’t have jobs.”

Many believe that more cops on the beat would keep these small-time crooks at bay.

“When you need them, you can’t find them,” Maria Parez, a five-year employee at Bed, Bath, and Linens, said of the NYPD.

But Leslie Lewis, president of the 84th Precinct’s Community Council, is confident that the boys in blue are doing all they can, even if you can’t always spot them.

“We’d all love to see a cop on every corner, but it just isn’t that way anymore,” he said. “Often times, it’s not the cop in uniform who makes the bust.”

The Fulton trend belies the 84th precinct’s overall crime rate, which has fallen since last year in nearly every category save for felony and misdemeanor assaults — which are up 22 and 28 percent, respectively.

Cops may be locking up Fulton Mall criminals at a record pace, but overall arrests at the 84th Precinct, which also encompasses Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO, are down, from 355 last year to 304.

But for many stores at the Fulton Mall, there’s no waiting around for 911.

The thief we saw at Rainbow? He was simply told: “Leave the store and don’t come back.”