A Marine Park man is taking it upon himself to find the teenage punk who broke into his jeep by plastering a picture of the thief across the neighborhood — and now he may be in trouble with the law for telling people to call the cops.
“I just want to make a lot of people aware of what was going in the neighborhood,” E. 36th Street resident Robert Lobenstein said after we tracked the leafletter down. “It’s sad to say that there are kids running around at all hours of the night, causing problems.”
Lobenstein put more than 10 “wanted” posters out in his search for the teenage thief, who he says has a “dull expression on his face as if on drugs.”
But now, Lobenstein could be in hot water for using the police department as a reference with out its permission.
An NYPD spokeswoman said that “police enforcement could be taken” upon anyone who puts out wanted posters in the community referencing the police without the NYPD’s okay. The spokeswoman would not say what type of enforcement would be taken.
Lobenstein says he didn’t expect people to be burn up the 63rd Precinct’s phone lines. Nor does he expect people to take matters in their own hands and run the teen out on a rail.
“I just did this to put the word out,” he said. “We know this kid’s broken into many cars in the neighborhood. I don’t think people would take it upon themselves to grab him. This kid is half dumb and looked like he was on something.”
The dull-eyed devil broke into Lobenstein’s vehicle as it sat between Fillmore Avenue and Avenue S just before 4:30 pm on Oct. 6, taking the 59-year-old’s $200 navigation system.
Lobenstein and a neighbor heard the break-in and gave chase, but only managed to snap a picture of the thief before he ran off.
“We almost cornered the little son of a [female dog], but we couldn’t hold him,” Lobenstein recalled.
Lobenstein reported the incident to police, but said he was disheartened to hear that there was very little cops could do.
“The police’s hands are tied,” he said. “They basically told me that if they did catch him, they would basically slap his hand and let him go.”
Lobenstein’s not entirely wrong: if cops arrested the teen, he would have been charged with petit larceny, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. The teen’s sentence would most likely be lighter because of his age, police sources said.
So Lobenstein decided to take another approach — shame the kid, whom he believes lives in the neighborhood, in his own community.
The wanted poster sports a blurry profile of the teen — the best image snapped up that harried night — but Lobenstein thinks it may be enough to let those who know the teen realize what he’s done.
“Wanted for breaking into vehicles in the Marine Park area, stealing money, valuables and electronics,” read the poster, which encourages residents to call the 63rd Precinct if the thief is seen in the neighborhood.
But now that he’s been informed that he could be the one facing charges, he’s decided to leave his pursuit for justice alone.
“I told [the cops] that this was a one shot deal,” he said. “I’ll leave it to them, even thought this will happen again and again and again.”
Lobenstein’s actions are occurring at a time when car break-ins in the neighborhood may be climbing: from Oct. 10 through Oct. 16, five cars were broken into in Flatlands, Mill Basin, Bergen Beach and again on E. 36th Street — where someone stole four doors from a 2009 Chevrolet Impala a short distance from Lobenstein’s house, according to police statistics. The week before, four cars were broken into, statistics show.