Thieves snatching idling Whitestone cars: Cops

The curb in front of Dunkin' Donuts is a popular place for drivers to park and run in for a cup of joe, but motorists have been leaving their car running, turning the area into a target for auto thefts. Photo by Joe Anuta
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In Whitestone, a cup of coffee can run more than $100,000.

Over the last two months, multiple car thefts have occurred in front of a Clintonville Road Dunkin’ Donuts after commuters left their cars running while popping in to get their morning fix, according to the NYPD.

Two motorists had their rides taken while standing in line less than 100 feet away.

After one high-end auto was stolen in March, officers from the 109th Precinct reminded customers to take their keys with them.

“We put up crime prevention signs warning motorists of the dangers of leaving their car running,” said Capt. Christopher Manson, executive officer of the 109th Precinct.

The signs are currently posted on both doors of the Dunkin’ Donuts, but not everyone listened.

About a month after the first incident in early March, where a running 2008 Porche Carerra was stolen while the owner was inside the store, a second luxury vehicle was stolen March 5.

At about 6:30 a.m., a man pulled his 2011 Mercedez-Benz CL63 — valued at about $130,000 — up to Dunkin’ Donuts and left it running while he went inside.

Right after he got out of the vehicle, a man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black shoes gained entry into the car and zoomed toward the Whitestone Bridge, police said.

The car had a special security device installed and shut down the engine while the carjacker was on the bridge. Just after crossing into the Bronx, the Benz ground to a halt, according to the NYPD.

The car was recovered, but the problem still persists at the corner coffee store.

On Monday morning, several motorists dashed out of their running cars and grabbed a piping hot cup of coffee.

“I do it all the time,” said resident Adam Schreiber, who left his SUV running outside the store. “My friends tell me all the time I’m crazy.”

Tony Vagelas left his black Chevy Tahoe running outside the donut shop — even though his uncle was the man who had his Porsche stolen.

“It’s Whitestone, people get comfortable,” he said.

But Vagelas said he was not worried, since he can disable his car via cellphone.

“I’d laugh if someone stole it,” he said. “Maybe I’d help the police catch someone.”

But it is actually illegal to leave a car running, even if it is only to dash into a Dunkin’ Donuts. That is why officers from the 109th Precinct said they have been keeping an eye on the location.

“We have written several summonses, and will continue to do so,” Manson said. “People might not like it, but we’re trying to save your car from being stolen.”

Manson said residents who live in quieter neighborhoods often get lulled into a false sense of security and let their guard down.

The brazen thieves were likely not from the neighborhood, according to Manson, but leaving the car running is nearly inviting them to steal the vehicle.

“It’s a silly thing to do,” he said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 8:08 pm, May 2, 2012
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Reader feedback

Jeremy from Whitestone says:
Although jaw dropping, this story reflects the sad reality we live in. Thieves infiltrating more affluent neighborhoods where unsuspecting members of the community have a false sense of security high enough to leave the keys in the ignition. Poaching an idling car is not so tough when the bridge is but a stone's throw away.

I remember growing up in a Whitestone when doing stuff like this might raise concern at first, but then you think "nah, this is Whitestone, not the Bronx."

Not so much anymore.

It's a brave new world Whitestone, it's a brave new world.
May 3, 2012, 9:33 pm

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