Cops arrested a thief in a daring stakeout in the aisles of Trader Joe’s, the Court Street supermarket that has hosted a rash of purse-snatches this year.
Capt. Kenneth Corey of the 76th Precinct said that his undercover officers pose as shoppers in the popular supermarket a few times per week, but this is the first time that cops nabbed someone for stealing a woman’s purse.
“We do it on a regular basis, in many locations where we see increases in crime,” Corey said. “Trader Joe’s has been a hotspot.”
The Hawaiian-themed supermarket, known as much for the frequent robberies as it is for its low-priced, line-caught salmon, has attracted thieves who prey on shoppers as they walk away from their belongings to peruse the myriad offerings.
But on April 28, one perp’s day at the office didn’t go as planned.
According to police, two officers fanned out inside the store, with one officer and a sergeant remaining outside. One cop pretended to shop — and then drift away from her cart and the pocketbook on it — while the other officer kept watch from a distance.
At around 2:30 pm, a thief grabbed the purse — which contained $20 — and ran out of the store into an awaiting car.
But he didn’t get far. The inside officer had already radioed a description of the perp to the outside officer, who moved in quickly and arrested the suspect, who was also in possession of a small quantity of marijuana, which is not sold at the otherwise mellow supermarket.
“We have to wait for him to leave the store,” Corey said. “Otherwise, he could say, ‘I was just going to return it to the cashier.’ ”
And a small amount of cash is secreted in the purse so that cops can book the thief for a crime.
The ongoing stings have netted a variety of shoplifters, but this is the first robber, Corey added.
There have been at least four such crimes at Trader Joe’s this year — which the top cop partly attributed to the relaxing feeling that the store gives its customers.
“I’ve been in there myself and there’s a high comfort level,” he said. “In other stores, people clutch their bags like they’re an infant, but at Trader Joe’s, they don’t watch so closely.
“People walk away from their bags for 10 minutes, even,” he added.