Bedford Avenue Bars Fight Back Against Rash of Burglaries
BROOKLYN — After their Valentine's Day grand opening party, the co-owners of the Bellwether Brooklyn on Union Avenue were dressed to the nines, including a pair of glittering party slippers.
But as they went back to check on the security system, they discovered they might have been better off wearing their running shoes — when they found a burglar lurking in the vestibule of their bar.
"He just took off, and we chased after him," said owner Criterion Guebie-Thornton, who tailed the prowler along with his wife and co-owner, who was donning a black dinner dress and black, sequined slippers.
Dashing after the burglar they dialed police, who helped grab him a short time later.
“My wife and I run together…and this guy was getting winded,” Guebie-Thornton added, saying Fields didn't make it too far.
“He’s chubby and never got away.”
The Bellwether is just one of the many North Williamsburg bars that have been targeted in a burglary spike this winter that has owners booby trapping doors and even getting staff to sleep inside their businesses.
Deputy Inspector Terence Hurson, the commanding officer of the 94th Precinct, has also stepped up patrols between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m., the hours when most break-ins happen.
About a dozen burglaries and robberies were reported in North Williamsburg in February alone, a significant increase from the year before. The robbery spree — which has hit locations including the Bellwether Brooklyn, the Gibson NYC at 108 Bedford Ave., and Two Door Tavern at North 5th and Berry streets — dates back to at least December, police and prosecutors said.
Guebie-Thornton and his wife helped cops catch Mark Fields, 52, of New Jersey.
Guebie-Thornton said he called 911 during the pursuit and police arrested Fields on Union Avenue.
Fields didn't have anything from the restaurant in his possession when he was caught, authorities said. He has been charged with burglary, criminal mischief, grand larceny, criminal trespassing and petty larceny. If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison.
Fields is currently facing charges on a separate burglary incident in which he allegedly targeted the Triple R Deli and Grocery at 60 East 55th St. in Crown Heights last September.
After pleading guilty to petty larceny on February 7 he was released on $10,000 bail, just eight days before the alleged Bellwether incident. He did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Police have not said if Fields is being linked to the other burglaries.
Another man, Angel Rodriguez, 54, was arrested on charges he broke into the Two Door Tavern at 2:30 a.m. Dec. 6.
Police said Rodriguez, of Bushwick, was captured by video surveillance breaking into the bar at North Fifth and Berry streets.
His fingerprints and DNA were also found at the scene, according to the criminal complaint by the Brooklyn District Attorney's office. Rodriguez, who has a criminal history for burglary, was arrested on February 10 and has been charged with third-degree burglary, fourth-degree criminal mischief and petty larceny.
He was released on bail March 6 and his court date has not yet been set.
“He broke in with a crowbar and took the register,” said Two Door Tavern bartender Adam Liscombe, 33, who said there was no money in the register.
“It was weird — he walked in like five minutes after I left.”
Liscombe said the tavern — which has only been open since last summer — now keeps the register open to show potential burglars there is no money kept inside. Staffers also make sure the alarm system is set each night, he said.
“I’m glad they caught him,” Liscombe said.
Rodriguez's lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Bar owners said they're relieved to hear the men are in custody, but they said they're still taking steps to defend themselves against future incidents.
At Turkey’s Tavern on Bedford Avenue by McCarren Park, staffers said they were taking extra precautions — double locking their front door in addition to using the metal roll-bar gate in front of it.
Police said the number of burglaries has increased from the same time last year, but did not immediately provide the number of break-ins that took place in winter 2010 - 2011.
Megan Giometti, owner of the Gibson NYC, whose bar was hit twice in January, said someone broke in by using a crowbar on a side window in December. She said she believes the bar was targeted a third time shortly afterwards, but that attempt was unsuccessful.
She said her staff began “booby trapping” the space and even started having someone sleep in the bar overnight following the incidents.
“Now we leave the light on at night and we take the money out of the drawer,” said Giometti. "I was thankful all they got was a little money."
She added that she's happy police are focusing on the area.
"I felt better when I found out the cops caught someone," Giometti said.
The Gibson's bartender Amy Ehrman said burglaries were new to the Bedford Avenue strip.
"We've never been robbed before," Ehrman, 36, said.
Staffers at All’s Well on Bedford at North 10th Street — which has gotten a positive buzz since its recent opening — said they found crowbar marks on the bar's front door recently.
"It's not exactly good for business," the staffer said.