By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Police arrested a man this past Monday who is suspected of snatching unattended bags from the Starbucks at 10 Union Square East, which police say has been a hotbed of thefts for the last few months. The precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman, said at last week’s Community Council meeting that the precinct has especially been struggling with thefts from the chain throughout the city because the company has been reluctant to provide surveillance video.
“One of the main ways we can catch these guys is with video and Starbucks has not been very cooperative,” Hellman said. “We’ve followed up with subpoenas and we’ve still never been able to retrieve a single video from them.”
Starbucks did not return a request for comment by T&V’s press time.
Despite the lack of cooperation from the coffee chain, the man who was arrested, 60-year-old Prince Wright, was picked up inside the Starbucks location at 25 Union Square West this past Monday by officers who recognized him from a photo. Police connected him to two grand larcenies at the 10 Union Square East location on March 2 and 12, as well as thefts from two more at Starbucks locations in the Midtown South precinct.
Police said that he was in possession of stolen credit cards as well as stolen gift cards when he was arrested.
Hellman noted that all of the businesses at the Union Square East address, which also includes a Panera Bread, a Food Emporium and Au Bon Pain, tend to attract similar criminal activity.
Hellman said that the Starbucks there has been especially problematic lately, with 10 reported incidents, six of which have taken place in the last month. The Union Square West Starbucks has also been the location for numerous thefts recently but Hellman said that those were not related to the current pattern.
The 13th Precinct’s Twitter posted about a recent incident at one of the non-Starbucks businesses at 10 Union Square East on Tuesday morning, reporting that an elderly woman’s bag was taken after she fell asleep inside the Au Bon Pain on March 24 at 1:45 p.m.
Police have connected Manuel Oferral as a suspect to that incident, and other alleged thefts throughout the borough, since December 2017. Police said that Oferral is suspected of committing eight thefts in six different precincts over that period, when he has allegedly stolen credit cards and used them at various locations.
Oferral was connected to the March 24 incident because he reportedly used a credit card stolen from a patron at one of the 10 Union Square East businesses and the business where he allegedly used the stolen card snapped a clear surveillance photo of him.