Crutch-Wielding 'Air Conditioner Bandit' Eyed in String of New Burglaries
HELL'S KITCHEN — The heat is on this career cat burglar.
Cops have identified Robert Jones, 49, as a person of interest in a new rash of burglaries in Hell's Kitchen, where a thief broke into apartments by pushing in loose air conditioners and then crawling through the window.
Jones was caught using the same strategy to sneak into empty apartments in 2011. In January 2012, police arrested him for ransacking at least 16 apartments after spotting him leaving the scene of a crime using a pair of crutches.
According to a community alert released by Midtown North Precinct cops earlier this month, Jones was named a person of interest — not a suspect — and is known to use crutches "as a prop or a tool."
A source said cops were not sure if the alleged bandit was behind the latest string of burglaries in April and May or if it was a copycat crime.
Jones, whom Police Commissioner Ray Kelly once called a "career burglar," was released on parole April 23, according to records.
The alleged burglar, who had been in custody for nearly a year and a half on the prior charges but never indicted, was released under the state's speedy trial law. A warrant for his arrest was issued on May 7 after he failed to show up to a court hearing, records show.
Just weeks after his release, on May 15, he was re-arrested after police found him smoking marijuana in a public park, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Brooklyn District Attorney.
In case the burglaries are a copycat crime, cops warned locals to always lock their rear windows and to make sure their air conditioners are property secured to window openings so they can't be pushed in or yanked out.
Jones is set to next appear in Manhattan Criminal Court on June 4.