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‘Must-have’ robberies - Cops blame spike on lust for gizmos

Robberies are on the rise throughout Brooklyn, but the economy is not to blame – at least not yet, according to NYPD officials.

Recently released statistics show that robberies in Patrol Borough Brooklyn South had increased by 8.4 percent as of October 12.

The percentage reflects a steady increase of 220 robberies when this year’s numbers (2,823) are compared to last year’s (2,603).

Of the nine precincts that cover southern Brooklyn, seven have seen increases in robberies this year.

Six have seen increases of 15 percent or more, including the 60th Precinct in Coney Island, the 61st Precinct in Sheepshead Bay, the 62nd Precinct in Bensonhurst, the 67th Precinct in East Flatbush and the 69th Precinct in Canarsie.

The precinct with the biggest increase in robberies this year is the 68th in Bay Ridge, which jumped 26.8 percent.

But the reason for the jump in robberies – which run the gamut from people being punched for their property to gun-toting goons raiding liquor stores – cannot be laid on the shoulders of failed Wall Street executives or the “recession” that financial experts say we’re zeroing in on.

Rather, the blame can be almost squarely rested on greedy teens looking to steal the coolest new cell phone or music player they can get their hands on, Brooklyn South officials said.

“We are seeing a lot of crime against juveniles committed by juveniles,” explained Deputy Inspector Eric Rodriguez, the 68th Precinct’s commanding officer. So far this year, 118 robberies have occurred in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights – 25 more than the year before.

“A lot of these kids have a ‘must have’ mentality when it comes to electronic devices,” Rodriguez explained. “[Teens] are stealing iPods, cell phones, things like that. It is a concern.”

Rodriguez said that while robberies are up, so are robbery arrests in his command – by 42 percent.

Roughly half of robbery suspects are under 18, he said.

When cops from Bay Ridge and throughout the borough aren’t rounding up and arresting muggers, they’re instructing people how best to protect themselves from being mugged.

Teens are being warned that they must always be aware of their surroundings, which is a hard thing to do in between cell phone calls, texting and listening to your MP3 player.

“Some of these teens are too busy concentrating on their music and they end up a robbery victim, he said.

Neighborhood precincts have also begun a widespread campaign to encourage teenagers to get their iPods and cell phones registered with the NYPD – a move that will make them less desirable to thieves.

“We’ve reached out to all the high schools and the junior high schools and asked them to contact their PTAs (Parent Teacher Associations) about our phone registration plan,” explained Captain George Mastrokostas, the commanding officer of the 61st Precinct. “Other than that, we’re paying special attention to the school corridors and the parks – where kids congregate.”

The re-aligning of resources in these areas has born fruit: robbery arrests throughout southern Brooklyn has increased by 20 percent, said Chief Joseph Fox, commanding officer of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South.

“The arrests our outpacing the increases,” Fox explained, adding that robberies in Patrol Borough South have dropped by nearly 30 percent as of 2001.

“To speak of any correlation between this spike and the economy would be premature,” he added. “We have a pretty good handle on what this increase is about and it’s about available technology and the attraction people have to rather expensive iPods and cell phones.”

“At any intersection, any bus and any train, somebody is holding up and adjusting or writing a message on one of these devices,” Fox said. “It creates a temptation to snatch it.”

The two Brooklyn South commands that has seen a decrease in robberies this year were the 63rd Precinct — covering, Mill Basin, Mill Island, Marine Park, Flatlands and Bergen Beach — which saw a 1.5 percent decrease, and the 66th Precinct in Borough Park and Kensington, which saw a 2.4 percent decline in muggings this year, according to statistics.

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