CHELSEA — Sticky-fingered teens have been swiping cash tip from vendors selling summer treats along the High Line as part of a spike in thefts this summer, police and workers said.
In that incident, on Aug. 25 around 7:55 p.m., a pair of teenage boys walked up to the cart — which features “Mexican-style ice pops” called paletas and other sweets — and asked what the worker was selling, police and the employee said.
After inquiring about the price, one of the boys tried to open a freezer located behind the cart, distracting the worker from the front of the cart, said the employee, Shakira, who declined to provide her last name.
The boys asked a few more “mundane questions” before walking away and joining a group of teens, she recalled.
Not long after, she realized her tip jar — containing about $25 in cash — was gone.
“The whole jar was gone,” she said. “I’m guessing they were all in cahoots together.”
Tips have been stolen four or five times from Melt Bakery's ice cream sandwich cart, most recently in mid-July, a supervisor said.
The thieves are usually teens or people who appear to be homeless, but they don’t manage to get away with much cash, acknowledged Saul Fuentes, 20.
“Whenever we have too much [in the jar], we put it in our pocket and leave a dollar in there, so the most they take is three or four dollars,” he explained of the cart near West 16th Street.
Even so, employee haven't bothered to report the thefts to police, Fuentes said.
“By the time we do, and they try to find them, they’re going to be far away,” he said, adding that workers would have to leave the cart unattended to find a police officer and file a report.
Employees working at L'Arte del Gelato and People’s Pops’ carts — both of which are parked on the same stretch as Melt Bakery’s cart — said their businesses have also dealt with tip thefts this summer.
Two or three weeks ago, teens swiped two $10 bills from L’Arte del Gelato’s tip jar, said an employee who declined to provide his name, noting he heard about the theft from a coworker.
At the end of June, a group of teens ran off with a tip jar form People's Pops that held around $40 or $50 in cash, manager Benjamin Guadalupe said.
“We didn’t call the cops — the cops would just laugh at us,” said Guadalupe, 25.
The thieves were probably “just kids being rebellious, teenagers — high school kids, I bet,” added People's Pops retail associate William Chime, 22.
“This is a recent phenomenon, honestly,” he said. “But it hasn’t happened again, so that’s good.”
A spokeswoman for the High Line said the park couldn't comment due to the ongoing investigation.