Bandits Make a Grim Holiday Hit on Beach 129th Street

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With Rockaway in full holiday swing this past weekend, on Monday, December 10, residents and business owners in the Belle Harbor community woke up to the not-so-merry news that four businesses located on Beach 129th Street’s bustling commercial strip were burglarized in the wee hours of the morning. Two of the bandits were seen on security camera video footage captured by one of the businesses. However, as of press time, the NYPD is still on the hunt for the hooded bandits, who some locals suspect are quite familiar with the area.

The four businesses targeted just after midnight are Harbor Cleaners, Bon Appetit, Polly and Esther, and Sofia C. Laundromat. All of these businesses are just separated by a few other storefronts on the east side of Beach 129th, between Cronston and Newport Avenues. The Deputy Commissioner, Public Information (DCPI), which is NYPD’s press office, confirmed that the bandits entered the businesses through the rear of the buildings, and took money. According to a worker at the Laundromat, the bandits took approximately $400 in petty cash from the store, that was locked in the cashier drawer, and coins kept in a jar. “My boss’ husband opened the store as usual at 7 a.m. When he came in, and saw the mess and the broken-down back door, he immediately called the police,” said the worker, who preferred to remain anonymous. “He was the first to report the burglary on the street as we open really early. He contacted me to wait before I reported to work. The place was a mess, and obviously the robbers were in a hurry because coins and boxes were strewn all over the floor. Thankfully, they didn’t take any of the laundry.”

The worker also said that they were able to see the bandits on the store’s indoor camera video footage, which the police took right away. “From the video, you can see the two robbers entering the store through the backdoor. Both of them dressed in sweatshirts with the hoods pulled over their heads, face masks, sweat pants and gloves. They were obviously well prepared. This has been quite a shock,” the Laundromat’s worker said.

Kristin Cann, manager of boutique, Polly and Esther, said they first heard the news from the owner of Harbor Cleaners. “Tom from the Cleaners called my boss, Jamie Mcleod’s husband, to tell him what happened. We were and still are shaken. What a shock for all of us. I grew up and still live in this neighborhood. This is the last place you would imagine this happening. This is home,” Cann wistfully said.

According to Cann, the thieves walked away with approximately $600 from the cash register, which they left open, and about $300 worth of jewelry. “The weird thing is they attempted to take some merchandise as well, including some vests, hats and other apparel items. However, the police found the items in the dumpster outside at the rear of the store. Maybe it was too much for them to carry. Other than that, besides the coins, hangers and some apparel thrown on the floor, the store was in pretty good shape, considering,” Cann said.

Cann believes that the bandits are quite familiar with the area, and even knew where the cameras were located. “In our store, they ripped out the wires and disabled the camera. They seemed to know where the cameras were in an instant; and even how they entered through the backdoor is puzzling,” she said.

The other two businesses burglarized, Harbor Cleaners and Bon Appetit, declined to comment. Other surrounding businesses confirmed with The Rockaway Times that they were not robbed, and possessed no video footage. Many of the stores on this strip only have indoor cameras, not outdoor.

On Facebook, there was news circulating that the Dunkin Donuts located at 113-20 Beach Channel Drive was also robbed. However, NYPD Press confirmed the following: “There is no complaint on file for that address in 2018.”

However, the NYPD did confirm there was a complaint report filed for a robbery at Rockaway Family Chiropractic, located at 129-10 Newport Ave, for an incident that occurred between Friday, December 7 and Monday, December 10. According to the NYPD, “Unknown person(s) entered a rear window. No items were removed. DCPI has not been provided with surveillance footage.”

The Rockaway community’s heart went out to Polly and Esther’s owner, Jamie Mcleod, when she posted the following on the morning of Wednesday, December 12, on Facebook:

“This past Monday morning, at 1:15 a.m., four shops on Beach 129th were robbed. Last night they broke into the chiropractor's office on Newport. They came in through the back doors. If anyone noticed two men with masks on 129th Street, please contact the detectives at the 100th Precinct. They spent about two hours on the street casing the area.

“For those of you who live here, we all know how comfortable we feel living and working here. Those of us who own businesses in the area, please be vigilant and keep your eyes open. These men knew the stores and apparently where everything was. The feelings that you experience after this happens to you are unexplainable…Be careful and stay safe.”

As for Cann, though she is still in shock, says these bandits are not going to dissuade businesses from serving their beloved community. “Our community has resurrected after numerous challenges, including Hurricane Sandy, and heartbreak with the Flight 587 crash. We’re survivors. I just want people to keep their eyes open and be aware of what’s going on around them,” she said.

The 100th Precinct’s Detective Squad is on top of the investigation. If you have any information, contact their unit at 718-318-4223. Keep reading The Rockaway Times for future updates.

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