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Prowler Released By Greenpoint Police After Break-In Attempt, Family Says

By  Gwynne Hogan and Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | September 14, 2017 4:10pm 

 The bushes next to the Driggs Avenue building where the man hid out while talking to police after sneaking down the fire escape into neighboring tenants yard.
The bushes next to the Driggs Avenue building where the man hid out while talking to police after sneaking down the fire escape into neighboring tenants yard.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

GREENPOINT — A neighborhood family is outraged at police after they released a prowler who climbed down their fire escape in the dead of night, smashed hanging lights in their backyard and tried to creep into two apartments on the ground floor.

The man, who police said lived on the block, jolted the residents of the Driggs Avenue building near Newel Street awake Tuesday at around 3 a.m. with loud metal clanging after ripping down speaker and lighting wires on the side of the building, Michelle Garcia, 30, said.

When residents called 911 and police found him cowering in the bushes behind the enclosed fence of the building next door, responding officers brought the man a ladder so he could climb out to the sidewalk, talked to him and looked at his identification, and then let him go, the building's co-owner Rad Smolinski, 36, said.

"I am absolutely horrified by the response, especially after the recent murder that took place two blocks from our property," said Smolinski, 36, whose family owns the building, referencing the August murder of local playwright George Carroll next to McGolrick Park.

On Tuesday morning at around 3 a.m, Garcia woke with a start to the loud metal sound and ran to her lights to switch them on and off, hoping to scare away whatever made the noise, she said.

"I just heard a loud bang," said Garcia, "I was like freaking out."

"Then I see a tall shadow by my door."

Scared out of her wits, she ran out of her apartment, banged on door of her ground-floor neighbor, another young woman who lives alone, and then rushed upstairs to her mother-in-law's apartment where she dialed 911.

The two women peered out the back windows looking for the intruder, but couldn't see anything, then looked out to the street to where they saw a backpack on the sidewalk in front of the gate of the building next door to their, as if someone had thrown it over.

Police arrived at the scene moments later and the two watched from the front window as they questioned someone with a flashlight, still cowering in the bushes behind the fence of the building next door.

One officer peeled off and came to talk to Garcia, she said.

The officer explained to her that the man said he was a drunk neighbor who lived down the block and decided to jump from roof to roof down Driggs Avenue. He was trying to get down to go home, when he stumbled down their fire escape and through their backyard, she said.

"Honestly, my door is nowhere near the fire escape," she said, doubting that the man had just been innocently scaling fire escapes when she'd seen his shadow towering in front of her door.

Garcia's mother-in-law, who spoke with DNAinfo New York but declined to be named, said she continued watching from her window as another police car came with a ladder, letting the man, in his 30s with dark hair, climb out from the bushes, over the fence and onto the sidewalk.

He talked to officer for several more minutes, showed what looked like an ID and then walked down the block, she said.

A police spokesman confirmed the residents' accounts saying that, "an individual was attempting to gain access into his apartment. Officers identified him and determined that no crime was committed."

But police's response infuriated Smolinski who has been pressing the 94th Precinct for more information.

"We wanted to press charges; the cops just basically let him go," he said.

He contacted community affairs officers who told him the next day that the man was their neighbor and had been locked out of his apartment and trying to get back in.

"It just doesn't add up," Smolinski said. "How is he trying to get to his apartment from my house? Why is he trying to get into the back doors? Why does he have an empty backpack on him? Why is he hiding from the cops?"

The feeling the building owner was left with was that police in the 94th Precinct did not want to do their jobs.

"They didn't want to do the paperwork so they just let him go."

The Driggs Avenue resident's complaints are not unfamiliar in the 94th Precinct.

Many neighbors have been calling for a more visible police presence in Greenpoint following a random slashing in McGolrick Park in May before Carroll's death.

The precinct has also taken heat in recent months when a hijab-wearing officer sued after faced years of harassment while working there, and after Captain Peter Rose downplayed the severity of acquaintance rape at a public meeting.

Officers in the 94th Precinct pledged at a recent community board meeting to rebuild tattered community ties and start taking residents out for a coffee.