It was August and Christine Brinkhorst left her desk to go to the restroom at the Rolling Orange bike shop on Baltic Street near Court. The shop was closed, but a side door was open. When Brinkhorst returned, her laptop was gone.
“I was shocked,” said Brinkhorst, a native of Holland.
The store computer is now padlocked to the desk with a massive chain.
Robberies are up 4o percent from a year ago in the relatively low-crime 76th Precinct, including Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook and parts of Boerum Hill and Gowanus. Police are asking residents to remain vigilant.
This summer, Smith Street was a robbery hot spot, with thieves targeting people texting while walking, their heads in their phones, not paying attention. Many of the incidents were grand larcenies, in that they did not include use of force. So far, none of the phones stolen during the summer have been found. Detectives are actively looking for fencing locations. (For a breakdown of the crime stats, see Robberies Spike 40 Percent.)
In half of the robberies, thieves target electronics–specifically, iPhones, blackberries and other cell phones. Often, the robbers simply snatch the phone out of victim’s hands.
“Don’t be so carefree walking around with your cell phone. It’s almost like giving it away,” said Officer Vincent Marrone, a spokesman for the 76th Precinct. “If you are out at a bar and walking home, pay attention to your surroundings.
“Smith Street is like having a kid in a candy store. There’s people in need, and there’s people with property walking around. Sometimes, people are forgetful. People leave their pocket books on chairs.
“Just remind yourself: Crime can happen anywhere.”
After a rash of robberies on Smith, Capt. John Lewis at the 76th Precinct increased the presence of beat cops and volunteer auxiliary cops walking the street. As a result, robberies dropped in July and August.
“If we take our eyes off Smith Street,” Lewis said, “we’ll have a problem.”
As for Brinkhorst, she’s still reeling. Her music, pictures and business contacts were on the laptop.
“Everything was on there. Now it’s gone,” Brinkhorst said.
Brinkhorst lives in Amsterdam, but came to Brooklyn to open the Rolling Orange Dutch bike shop, which made a splash with its beautiful, contemporary design and two-story-high glass windows. She said she always feels safe in Brooklyn, and loves it here. In Amsterdam, pickpockets are common, she said.
Brinkhorst said the Brooklyn police response surprised her.
“They came right away, they sent officers, and then the detective came, and somebody came to swipe all the surfaces, even the walls (for fingerprints). In Holland, they don’t even take the time. If you get robbed, most of the time, you have to go to the police station yourself to report it.
“”I felt like I was on Law & Order.”
To read about our crime stats and an interview with the local police chief, check out, “Robberies Spike 40 Percent.”