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Upper Manhattan Residents Cope With Car Break-Ins

By Carla Zanoni | November 30, 2010 4:12pm

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

INWOOD — When Debra Wilkins parked her car on Park Terrace West the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, the last thing she expected was to find the windows of her 2005 Pathfinder smashed the next morning.

But someone broke into her car, which was parked on the winding and dark stretch between Isham and 215th streets, during the early morning, leaving shattered glass inside the vehicle and scattered on the ground.

"Thank god I didn’t come earlier," said the visibly shaken Wilkins as she surveyed the damage. "They could have been here."

Wilkins, who lived in Inwood for more than 10 years, but now lives in New Jersey, didn't notice anything stolen.

"Why would somebody do this?" she said. "This is why I don't want to drive to the city anymore."

Wilkins is one of many recent victims of car vandalism or theft in Upper Manhattan, where broken glass on sidewalks from automobiles is becoming an increasingly common site.

During the 34th Precinct Community Council meeting in November, residents from Washington Heights and Inwood complained of a growing problem in the area and CompStat reported a 100 percent jump in car thefts in October.

Police said they do not have statistics on theft of property, such as tires being stripped or items being stolen after a window is smashed, as it is aggregated into a broader "petty theft" category of crime reports.

At the precinct meeting, NYPD Captain Jose Navarro urged residents to be mindful of leaving property in their vehicles in the view of potential thieves.

"We are well aware of the situation in the neighborhood, seeing cars vandalized or on crates is quite frankly embarrassing," he said, explaining that the precinct is currently using "bait cars" with cut off switches aimed to trap would-be thieves.

Police were able to nab one attempted car robbery early last Tuesday morning, when they found a man sitting in the back seat of a car parked in a driveway on West 217th Street, between Park Terrace East and Park Terrace West, NYPD said.

Also, car theft numbers appear to be dropping, according to November police statistics.

That was of little comfort to Wilkins as she waited for police to respond to her smashed Pathfinder. While she waited, a postal worker pulled up in his truck.

After learning what happened, the worker shrugged. He said his car had been broken into three times on nearby Seaman Avenue.

"That’s why I got rid of my car," he said, before driving off.