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Senior: ‘I Fought The Burglar’

Suspect flees, police in search

Bravery in the face of a criminal is honorable. However, the best thing to do is find a safe place and call 911, experts say in the wake of a burglary at the Birchwood Court Apartment Complex in Mineola on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

According to Nassau County Police detectives, a 69-year-old female victim returned to her residence in Birchwood at 11:15 a.m. and observed an unknown Hispanic male in her apartment going through her desk. The man grabbed her, but he broke free and fleed on foot.

“I fought him,” the victim said, who asked not to be identified.

Police said jewelry and cash were missing. No injuries were reported. Authorities described the man as approximately 40 years old, 5-feet-6 inches tall, stocky build, wearing a blue and white fleece jacket.

“It’s very important, that if a senior can afford it, they should definitely have an alarm system installed in their home,” says Nancy Mezrahi, director of senior citizen affairs for the department of the aging in North Hempstead’s Project Independence. “I think we all pretty much are aware, lighting is very important in the front and the back of the house. If you’re going way, don’t leave mail in your mailbox, which gives a sign that you’re not home.”

Mezrahi commends the victim for trying to stop the suspect from bolting from the building, but feels another approach is much safer. 

“Find someone near your house, apartment, a neighbor, run and call the police,” Mezrahi said.

 She has worked with seniors for 30 years and aided seniors who’ve been victimized by crimes ranging from push-ins, burglaries, assaults, e-mail and phone scams. Talking about an incident is the best medicine, according to Mezrahi.

“Anyone who’s a victim of a crime, there are all kinds of agencies that can help with counseling,” she said. “When you’ve been traumatized like that, counseling can help alleviate some of the fears and anxieties that are associated with [the crime]. When you’re burglarized, it’s just so unsettling.”

Residents at the complex said people posted notices about the crime, but police asked the fliers be removed. Russell Sutherland, president of the Birchwood Court Co-Op Board of Directors, was home when the crime occurred, but it did not occur in his building. He declined to say whether or not if he knew the victim

“Being that it’s an ongoing investigation, the detectives really don’t want us to reveal any details about the crime,” Sutherland said. “That’s all I can say at this point until we get clearance.”

According to Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss, the man gained access to the building by repeatedly pressing call buttons in the lobby until one room buzzed the suspect in. He said a similar incident occurred on Mineola Boulevard recently.

“It appears to be the same individual involved in both cases,” stated Strauss. “I encourage anyone with information to contact the police. To all our residents living in apartment buildings, please don’t buzz anyone in to your building without knowing who they are. If you’re not expecting someone, don’t press the button. Go down to the lobby. I know it can be difficult, depending on what floor you live in, but safety makes a difference.”

Detectives request anyone with information regarding this crime to contact Nassau County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-244-TIPS. All callers will remain anonymous.