Manhasset burglaries, car thefts raise concerns
You live in what your believe is a safe, gated community in Manhasset. You and your wife take the dog for an evening walk. Your children and their visiting friends are at home, socializing. The house alarm is off, of course. What you don’t know is that a burglar, using what police believe are specialty boots, has climbed the stucco siding and reached the balcony leading to the second floor master bedroom. He jimmies the lock on the sliding door, flips the lights on and starts looking for valuables. You get back to the house, and as your wife climbs the stairs, announces that she’s going to bed, probably startling the burglar. She opens the bedroom door and notices the lights are on. It was then, you presume, that the unwelcome visitor scampered down or jumped from the balcony and fled.
Dozens of people listened with rap attention as a man related the details of a brazen burglary at what he believed was an inviolable place.
“I’m a very private person, so I can’t believe I’m telling you this experience I had,” said the resident. At his request, we have omitted his name.
“In 17 minutes of our walking the dog and walking back there was a burglary,” he summed up. “We have [the burglar] on camera. The detectives at the Sixth Precinct are great. They are trying to find him and keep on calling me with updates.”
He continued, “He took the jewelry—okay it doesn’t matter. My daughter was sleeping in the adjacent room (there were gasps and murmurs in the audience). I don’t know what would have happened if [we had encountered] this brazen person dressed in [some kind of] uniform with what they’re telling me is gloves—because there were no fingerprints. I don’t know what would have happened. I’m nervous for the children, not just [in our] community, but all the communities. You could do something to me, but don’t do anything to my children. We are very shaken up. Yes, we didn’t have the alarm on, but why would we think to have the alarm on while we’re in the house, with so many activities going on?”
He urged the attendees to keep their alarms on, lock the doors and keep everything safe and well-lit.
The occasion was a June 14 community awareness/crime prevention meeting hosted by the Nassau County Police Department at the large meeting room in the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department Company No. 2 headquarters.
It featured talks by Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.
Inspector Harun “Hodge” Begis of the Sixth Precinct, whose headquarters were a stone’s throw away, was also on hand.
Manhasset resident Joe LaPadula organized the event after a number of break-ins and a general perception that crime was rising.
“People were coming to me, scared in their own homes,” he told the Manhasset Press, mentioning Ring videos that residents put up on social media showing attempted burglaries and car thefts.
“I’m a concerned resident, a father of three,” LaPadula went on, thanking the fire department and Chief Greg Weisburd “for hosting us on such a short notice.”
“I’d also like to thank the Nassau County Police Department, one of the finest in the nation,” he said in his introduction,
“Wait until the evening is done,” joked Commissioner Ryder to laughter.
The room erupted in applause when LaPadula revealed that the commissioner was celebrating his 60th birthday that day.
Nassau County Comptroller Elaine Phillips of Flower Hill said she would be the timekeeper and try to keep the meeting to an hour.
“The Sixth Precinct has offered to stay afterwards and answer your questions privately for those of you not comfortable raising your hands and talking about it in public,” Phillips stated. “We’re going to let Commissioner Ryder get home because he might want to do some celebrating for his birthday.”
Phillips also said that he evening would not have happened without LaPadula, who took the initiative.
“The biggest job the government could do is to make you feel safe. And somehow, for whatever reasons, this is not the case and we’ll let the commissioner address this,” Phillips said.
She hoped that when residents left the meeting they would understand the issues and gain more confidence in what is happening.
Phillips then introduced Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jen DeSena, who welcomed mayors and trustees from the Manhasset area. She also noted that County Treasurer David Chang of Manhasset and former Senator Jack Martins were also in the audience.
“We’re here today to talk about the crime issues up here,” Ryder pronounced. “Some of it is perceived and some of it is real. That story is real. That is a real burglary that happened (related by the resident minutes earlier).”
He said that the Sixth Precinct used to average about 500 burglaries a year, and to date, there had 34, “so we’ve gotten them way down and under control.”
The commissioner talked about what he labeled a “Chilean Burglary Crew” that operated on the target-rich North Shore several years ago. Their advent coincided with bail reform that was passed by the overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature in 2020.
Though he affirmed, “I’m not talking politics here. I give you facts,” there is no doubt that Ryder, like much of law enforcement and Republicans in general, blamed the reforms for taking away cash bail/jail remainder from judges’ discretion for a long list of crimes.
“A burglary [in the] third [degree], a residential burglary. without any aggravating factors—no violence, no weapons,” Ryder explained. “That individual goes in and breaks into your house and steals what they steal. It doesn’t matter the value—if they take a dollar or they take a million dollars, it’s the same crime. We arrest them and they go in front of a judge and the judge cannot hold them on bail and they walk out. That’s a problem for us. A big problem.”
The commissioner did note that reforms to the law in the 2021 legislative session did give some latitude back to the judges.
He said police and prosecutors used a loophole in the law in which they charged suspects with attempted burglary, which was a bailable offense and so managed to get members of the Chilean Crew held in jail.
“They also got them federally charged and the federal court just came down with a ruling—30 years to life,” he related, which drew applause.
“The next problem is stolen cars,” Ryder said. “There’s been five stolen cars in Manhasset since the beginning of the year. [In] all five of those stolen cars the keys were left in the car. We saw an uptick.”
The commissioner said his department met with area mayors and DeSena, and the county executive was at a couple of town hall meetings. Police also set up roadblocks where they handed out pamphlets to educate the public.
Ryder thought all these efforts have worked, that the pace of car thefts has slowed countywide.
The commissioner also criticized another modification in state criminal law, the “Raise the Age” act, in which 16- and 17-year-olds are no longer treated as adults for many crimes, but as juveniles. They are processed in family courts, which means they face lesser punishments and consequences. As a result, the same people keep on committing the crimes, he claimed.
At a press conference in April, the commissioner spoke of his department receiving reports from East Hills, Flower Hill, Manhasset, Greenvale and Plandome of suspicious males attempting to enter vehicles. He said many stolen vehicles have been recovered in Newark, where the thieves take the cars to be sold, used for drag racing and to commit other crimes.
“[These] kids drive like absolute lunatics. They don’t fear nothing,” he said. “We’re not chasing them. We’re not running over your son or daughter for a car. It’s not going to happen. I won’t allow my police department to do it.”
At the Manhasset meeting, he detailed what happened when his officers attempted to stop three suspects in a stolen Mercedes who were arrested at Exit 33 of the Long Island Expressway (Lakeville Road) on April 24.
“That night, we pushed the envelope and what did I get? Five wrecked cars, five police officers in the hospital. Some of them have not come back to work since then,” Ryder observed. “That night alone we were down almost $200,000 in police cars—$200,000 in taxpayers money that I will never get back. Five cops that are injured in the hospital. Some of them have not come back, and I don’t know if they are coming back.”
At a press conference following the incident, the commissioner admitted that some of the injuries could be career-ending for his officers.
“I need help,” the commissioner said. “Ninety-five percent of the cars that are stolen you’re leaving your keys in the car and it’s unlocked. The bad guy knows to walk up to the car and jiggle the handle. That’s what you see on Ring doorbells.”
He also urged attendees with Ring cameras to sign up with law enforcement so that police can use the videos captured in them.
“We start to look for the patterns and where they go,” he went on. “It helps us arrest these people.”
Sometimes, the thieves push the garage opener in the stolen car, open the garage door and steal another car which has the keys in it.
“They’re not hot-wiring cars. They’re not shipping them overseas,” Ryder pointed out. “These are not organized crime crews that we knew from the ’80s and ’90s. These are 17-year-old brazen kids and know they’re going to get away with it and they’re going to run because they don’t care. And that’s what we’re up against.”
He added, “So what are we doing to help you? We’ve been educating you. I’ve said it a thousand times. Please take the keys in your house. I beg you.”
The famous Manhasset shopping strip is “the number one hit place for most of your larcenies,” according to Ryder, adding that “since the beginning of the year we’ve arrested 33 people. It’s a larceny, it’s not a grand larceny, so they get out and they’re going to come back.”
Ryder said he and Sixth Precinct leadership met and had a discussion with the Americana ownership and the management.
“I’m on a first-name basis with most of the stores in there. [Owner] Mark Udell probably calls me five or six times a week from London Jewelers,” he went on. “We’re out there. We’ve done great work, great enforcement—that’s why you see cop cars.”
Ryder said his department has recovered several guns out of the Americana and put extra enforcement there, including what he called “an eye in the sky,” a crane from which an officer can observe the area.
Blakeman stated, “Let me tell you what was going on in the Americana and is still going on. Shoplifting is out of control—that’s why the police are there every day. I spoke to one shop owner in Manhasset who told me they don’t call the police anymore because it’s bad for business. They said, ‘You know what? I’d rather take the loss. I call the police, they come. Now the police are there for half an hour doing their investigation. Nobody’s going to walk in my store while the police are there.’ Those are the crazy things that are going on.”
A resident asked how many of the burglaries involved the use of a weapon.
“Zero,” responded Inspector Begis.
“They know that,” Ryder said of the burglars—introducing weapons increases the seriousness of the charge and lowers their chance of getting cashless bail.
Another resident talked about reallocating resources, asking about road patrols.
“In Nassau County there are 177 cars on patrol every day,” the commissioner said, adding that it’s more than neighboring Suffolk, which is three times as large. “The problem is I can’t cover every street at every second. I talked to the county executive and he said we’re going to be putting extra resources up here. We’ve done that the last five or six weeks and the [crime] numbers are way down. But it’s not sustainable because there’s crime everywhere else.”
A man wanted to know what to do if he encountered a burglar, making note that New York is not a state with a “stand your ground” law allowing wide latitude in self defense.
Rider mentioned the Fourth Amendment, stating, “When they come into your home you’re allowed to protect yourself, but you have to use equal or a little bit more force. You can’t shoot the guy sticking his head inside the window and you have to have a licensed firearm on top of that. The whole Second Amendment—I’m not touching that. But you have the right to defend yourself.”
“What about if they’re outside on the patio?” Ryder was asked.
“Call 911,” he responded.
Another resident mentioned British TV crime dramas showing the successful widespread use of closed-circuit cameras that are common, especially in London.
“Is there something similar, and why are we not catching people using technology?” he wanted to know.
Ryder said he was skeptical of the quality of video cameras in public venues, saying the video was subpar and unhelpful when it came to zooming in.
More promising was that the county executive had invested $300,0000 recently in more license plate readers for the patrol cars.
“Several of your villages have invested in license plate readers,” he continued. “All of that data gets sent to us. We pay for the storage and we pay to analyze it. That’s how we catch them.”
He added, “The best cameras in the business, and we’ve invested a lot in them, is your doorbell Ring. The quality is unbelievable. It’s an amazing tool.”
The Final Word
Though at one point Ryder declared that “Crime is way down,” emphasizing by lowering his arm toward the floor, this was only true in the historical sense.
“In the Sixth Precinct, we’ve had 34 [burglaries] year to date. On average, we used to do 70 to 80 a week here on the North Shore,” he emphasized. “We’ve really shut it down, but it’s starting to creep back up. You hear the county executive say crime is on the rise. He is 100 percent right. From where we were, we are starting to lose ground and we’re losing that ground because of bail reform, because of Raise the Age. These issues affect us in policing. Again, it’s not a political statement, it’s a fact.”
He continued, “We’re trying to get in front of it, but we need help. We need to work together as a community. We need to do exactly what we’re doing here. When we have this dialogue, we hear your concerns and we hear what needs to be taken care of.”
When another resident asked about bail reform and who was responsible for it, Ryder turned to Blakeman, who was sitting at the table with elected officials and Sixth Precinct leaders.
The county executive strode up to the podium and joked, “Commission Ryder, you are dismissed because I don’t want your wife to make you retire. So thank you so much and get home.”
As the commissioner made his way out of the large room to spend his birthday with his family, the executive praised his department head’s dedication, wondering “when the guy gets to sleep.”
Blakeman said it was a state problem, not a county problem, and urged attendees, “until you are fed up, until you had enough, it’s going to be very difficult for us to change the culture in the state. I ran on the platform that we have to change crazy laws in Albany.”
The executive added, “We’re hiring more police officers, we’re investing in technology and we’re being proactive, but our police officers are handcuffed—pun intended—because they arrest these criminals and then what happens? They’re back out on the street and now they’re more brazen than ever.”
He noted that for 200-plus years in this country, judges had to consider only two criteria when setting bail: whether someone was a flight risk or a danger to the community. And that was the judges’ provenance. In New York State, he charged, the legislature has violated the separation of powers by taking over the role of the Judiciary.
“Let me tell you what we are doing,” Blakeman said. “I told Commissioner Ryder that I want to make it as unpleasant as possible—according to the law—to those who commit crimes in Nassau County. In other words, we’re not going to rush them to court. We’re going to take our time within the time allowable by law. We want to let them know that this is not a place where you want to commit a crime.”
He added, “We’re going to invest in more police officers. We had another [police] academy [class]. So that’s 167 new police officers we’re going to have. We’re investing in the technology, but remember one thing about technology—it does not prevent the crime. It’s an investigative tool, it just lets us make the arrest.”
Blakeman re-emphasized that his and DeSena’s and Phillips’ number one job was to make sure the residents were safe and secure. But they needed help, and urged attendees to educate themselves and vote for politicians who backed law enforcement.
“I want to assure you that I believe the police department is doing a great job, they’re working hard,” the executive said. “We’re spending the money on personnel and we’re spending the money on technology. We’re going to try something a little different. We’re going to start Operation Hercules, where we’re going to have patrol cars with their lights on patrolling all throughout Nassau County on an ongoing basis for no other reason then to let the criminals know that we’re around. It’s something they did in the City of New York to combat terrorism right after 9/11 and we think that it will help here in Nassau County.”
As the meeting came to an end, Phillips reminded attendees that Inspector Begis had offered to stay and respond to questions in a more private setting. A number of residents took advantage of the opportunity.
Manhasset—All Other Crime
Jan. 1–June 13, 2022
Larceny From Auto……………………………12
Possession of a Forged Instrument…………4
Possession of a Weapon………………………4
Criminal Possession of
a Controlled Substance……………………….3
Criminal Mischief to Auto……………………..2
Grand Larceny-Motor Vehicle………………..1
Obstruction of Breathing……………………..1
Scheme to Defraud……………………………1
Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle……………….1
Source: Nassau County Police Department