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Snack-Loving Bandit Takes Big Bite Out of NYPD Resources

By Patrick Wall | June 11, 2013 7:07am
 A burglar has struck a Frito-Lay distribution center in Hunts Point several times, partly due to poor security, cops say.
Frito Bandito in Hunts Point
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HUNTS POINT — A hungry thief is swiping boxes of chips, sunflower seeds and other snacks from a poorly guarded Frito-Lay warehouse, police say.

Though the Dorito-filled boxes aren’t worth much, the local precinct has been forced to divert precious resources to capture the crook.

Meanwhile, the precinct's pleas to the massive snack manufacturer to upgrade the site's security have fallen on deaf ears, said Capt. Philip Rivera, the 41st Precinct’s commanding officer.

“I’d rather use those resources on robberies than for a multi-billion dollar company that can afford to do a couple things to improve their physical security,” Rivera said.

He added that cops believe they have ID'd the suspect who's habitually looting munchies from a Frito-Lay distribution center at 1101 Oak Point Ave., where he has been picked up for snack burglaries before, Rivera said.

There have been several break-ins in the last few months. In each, the stolen goods never amount to more than $200 or so, Rivera said.

Sometimes the man, whose name is being withheld because he hasn't been charged with the robberies, appears to use a pushcart to wheel away the wholesale boxes, while other times he carries them, Rivera said.

He is the primary suspect in the center’s most recent theft, on May 22, when boxes filled with Doritos and Spitz sunflower seeds went missing.

Security flaws make the one-story brick warehouse vulnerable to theft, Rivera said.

“It’s a fenced-in area but holes are constantly being made in the fences,” Rivera said. “It’s not very well lit. There’s one camera that doesn’t work. There’s one security guard who doesn’t work either.”

Rivera said his officers met with a Frito-Lay security official last year and offered recommendations for the site — more cameras, better lighting, trimmed trees and bushes — but have yet to see them carried out.

“We’ve gotten, ‘Yeah, we’ll take that back to corporate,’” Rivera said. “Nothing’s happened.”

Frito-Lay North America, a wholly owned subsidiary of PepsiCo that makes Doritos, Cheetos, Tostitos, Fritos and other snacks, sells its products to independent distributors and retailers. The company brought in $13.6 billion in net revenue last year, according to PepsiCo's annual report.

Frito-Lay did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

Meanwhile, the precinct must dispatch officers to investigate the scene whenever the center is burglarized to question the suspect and even to stake out the warehouse in hopes of catching the bandit in the act.

And all this happens in an isolated corner of industrial Hunts Point far away from crime hotspots where cops are most needed.

“That’s so far removed from everything else, that I’m taking all those resources,” Rivera said. “I might as well be putting them on Mars.”

The suspected Frito bandit has been arrested 17 times for burglary and 12 times for possession of stolen property, Rivera said.

He was charged earlier this year with grand larceny and other crimes for allegedly stealing more than $3,000 worth of fiber-optic cables from a Bronx ConEdison cable yard in 2012, according to a criminal complaint.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 60 days in jail, the Bronx District Attorney’s office said.

Rivera said officers try to connect him to burglaries whenever they can and send him to jail — but he’s never gone for long.

“When we do put him away, he gets sentenced, he does two or three months, then he’s back out on the streets,” Rivera said.

"When he’s back out on the street, it’s not long before Frito-Lay is being broken into.”