SUNNYSIDE — Cops busted a Queens man they believe was responsible for a string of iPhone thefts at a subway station in Sunnyside, police said.
Christopher Pandiani, 22, was arrested April 7 and charged with grand larceny after allegedly swiping a straphanger's phone at the 7 Train station at 46th Street. Investigators believe he may have been behind a rash of phone thefts at the same station in recent months, according to the NYPD.
Transit Bureau Capt. Michael Telfer said four straphangers had their smartphones nabbed at the 46th Street station over the span of a few weeks in February and March.
The spike in thefts prompted him to permanently post an officer at the station in hopes of catching the suspect in the act, he said.
"I had a cop there for a whole month and nothing happened," Telfer told members of the 108th Precinct Community Council at a meeting Tuesday night.
"I thought maybe this guy moved to Staten Island or something, so we took the cop away. But the very next day it happened again."
Telfer said Pandiani grabbed a rider's phone at the station the morning of April 7. He was trailed by two officers using an iPhone tracking app to his home just a few blocks from the train station, where he was arrested, Telfer said.
"We haven’t had a cellphone stolen since," at the 46th Street stop, Telfer said, but added that cops were only able to charge Pandiani with one of the four prior larcenies based on witnesses who were able to pick him out of a lineup.
"Most people, when they're on the train, they're not paying attention — they don't know who robbed them," he said.
The NYPD beefed up subway patrols in Western Queens this year in an effort to crack down on transit crimes in the area, with 28 extra cops patrolling stations in the 108th Precinct during day shifts and another 28 cops assigned to the overnight shift.
The 108th Precinct — which includes 15 stations in Long Island City, Woodside and Sunnyside — was home to the most transit crimes in Queens last year, according to Telfer, with stolen phones being the most common offense.