Thursday, August 02, 2007

Subway thugs in New York City get knocked off of the rails

Peter Donohue:

Michael Sanders Leroy Lawrence James Lee Gilberto Beach

Their rap sheets stretch longer than a 10-car train, with about 660 arrests among them.

The less time these 31 career criminals spend riding the subways, the less likely straphangers are to be robbed, assaulted or knifed.

The Daily News obtained exclusive details about the subway thugs whose recent arrests have helped cut crime in the city's underground to record lows.

One of them is Michael Richardson, 41, who was busted in February on a No. 6 train on the Lexington Ave. line after he dipped his hand into a woman's purse, police said.

It was his 12th arrest on pickpocket charges in the transit system.

A large man - 250 pounds piled onto a 5-foot-10-inch frame - Richardson is a pickpocket by trade, police said.

The specialty requires stealth, not brute strength.

After NYPD Officer Serafin Resto spotted Richardson slip his hand into a passenger's purse, cops discovered he was carrying a credit card and a cell phone he allegedly swiped from two other women on the subway.

Along with his 12 arrests in the transit system, Richardson has been busted a dozen times above ground.

He has been held at Rikers Island since February.

"Our transit officers have done outstanding work in apprehending repeat subway offenders. That's been key to making the transit system so safe," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told The News.

Other members of the rogues' gallery are:

Gilberto Beach, 42, a convicted pickpocket. He has been such a menace that his parole officer - at the request of the NYPD - once banned him from the subways while on parole.

But he couldn't stay above ground and was arrested by transit cops in March on a grand larceny charge - his 15th arrest in the subways and his 20th overall, police said.

Leroy Lawrence, 42. He already had 18 arrests on his rap sheet when busted in March for a series of purse snatchings, police said.

James Lee, 43, was arrested earlier this month for allegedly robbing subway riders at knifepoint.

He had nine arrests, including seven for robbery in the subways, records show.

Among the worst of the subway thugs is Michael Sanders, police said.

Sanders, 41, already had been booked for 50 arrests and five subway robberies when he struck again in February, police said.

The diminutive man, who stands just 4-feet-11 and weighs 130 pounds, allegedly attacked a 16-year-old girl on a staircase at the Queens Plaza subway station.

Sanders choked the girl until she lost consciousness, then ran off with her purse, according to a police complaint filed by Detective William Thomas of the Queens robbery squad.

After detectives circulated a description of the mugger, Sanders was picked up lurking near a subway stairwell in Queens, police said.

NYPD Transit Bureau Chief James Hall said arresting the career criminals makes the subways safer. The News revealed this month that serious subway crime has fallen so much that a rider's daily odds of being victimized are about equal to being struck by lightning any given year.

"If you can make such high-caliber arrests, you are going to reduce crime in the subways," Hall said.

Well done, NYPD!

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