Hero Station Cleaner Grabs Cell Phone Thief
January 29th, 2014
A quick-thinking NYC Transit cleaner assigned to the Forest Avenue Station in Queens responded to a customer’s call for help and caught one half of a cell-phone theft team, holding him for NYPD Officers, who placed him under arrest. The theft was in stark contrast to crime figures, which are dropping even as subway ridership reaches levels not recorded in 40 years.
The dimwitted duo committed the theft this past Monday at 1:40 a.m. aboard a southbound-bound train and then, with the victim in pursuit, bolted from the car at Forest Avenue. Station Cleaner Olando Upshur, 46, saw the youths running away from the victim and grabbed one of the thieves and after a struggle hauled him to the booth, where the agent had already called for a police response.
Upshur was alerted to the crime by a woman’s scream as she chased the two youths. He managed to grab both of them but lost his grip on one as he retrieved the woman’s cell phone. The victim, unfortunately, did not want to press charges after she regained her phone according to Upshur, who has 23 years with NYC Transit.
“I saw one of our customers in trouble and I know that I did the right thing. The assistance I received from the station agent and the response and appreciation from the NYPD was fantastic,” said Upshur.
“Mr. Upshur held the perpetrator until our officers arrived and placed him under arrest,” said Transit Bureau Chief Joseph Fox. “Though we generally caution citizens to avoid confrontation with perpetrators, this employee demonstrated bravery and quick thinking in coming to this young lady’s aid without hesitation. His actions were commendable, and we thank him for his assistance.”
This incident occurred during a period when the crime rate is being driven lower by the efforts of the NYPD Transit Bureau, which reported that, for 2013, the total number of major felony crimes was down 4.6% in the subway, compared to 2012. This past year, the NYPD reported 125 fewer crimes (2,607 vs. 2,732) than in 2012. This impressive reduction was led by a 22.2% decline in robberies. Grand larcenies, however, rose slightly in 2013 vs. 2012 - an increase of 3.3% (1,759 vs. 1,703).
One of the NYPD’s most successful initiatives involved their focus on the seven precinct areas where subway crime was proportionately higher. Criminal activity within these seven precincts accounts for one quarter (23.7%) of all major felonies in transit. However, the NYPD’s enhanced focus during 2013 led to a 13.6% reduction (618 vs. 715) in major felonies in these seven precinct areas.
Electronic devices accounted for 54% of the targeted property removed during grand larcenies and robberies in 2013 but that percentage is also on the decline, driven down by targeted police work. “Clearly, our decoy operations were critical in reducing these thefts of electronic devices,” said Chief Fox.
Throughout 2013, the Transit Bureau conducted 248 such operations, resulting in 96 arrests – a more than 28% success rate. Seventy percent of those arrested had a prior criminal history – nearly 40% of whom had a history of crime within the transit system.
NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco noted that the shrinking crime figures were directly attributable to the cooperation between the agency and the NYPD, but he offered special praise for Upshur. “This was an incredibly brave decision by Mr. Upshur to not only retrieve the customer’s property but also hold the suspect for the NYPD,” said Bianco. “He is just one more reason why I am so proud to be leading this agency.”