Rockville Centre police earlier this month arrested a man who allegedly stole cash, credit cards and a laptop, among other items, from cars parked in the lot behind police headquarters and Sportset Health & Fitness Club on Maple Avenue.
Huley Williams, 57, of Brooklyn, was charged on May 10 in connection with the crimes, according to a department report. He faces five counts of grand larceny, two counts of criminal mischief, four charges of identity theft and one count of attempted grand larceny, according to Police Commissioner James Vafeades.
“It’s not uncommon for someone to break into cars near a gym,” Vafeades told the Herald, noting that similar incidents near gyms in neighboring communities could not be linked to Williams.
The charges stem from incidents from December to April. Officers identified Williams and his vehicle on an unnamed store’s surveillance footage after he used a credit card that he allegedly stole.
A license plate reader, one of about eight in the village, according to Vafeades, detected his vehicle and alerted police to his whereabouts. He was arrested on Sunrise Highway at about 3 p.m.
As Stan Natt, of Long Beach, was walking into Sportset one morning last week, he told the Herald that he always locks his car doors.
Jay Bondell, of Oceanside, said he never leaves valuables in his car, and always locks it. “I’ve heard stories about break-ins,” he said, noting that it seems to be more prevalent close to the Long Island Rail Road station, which is adjacent to that parking lot. “I’ve seen cars occasionally with a broken window.”
Fortunately, he added, he has never been a victim. “There’s nothing for them to take,” Bondell said with a shrug.
Rockville Centre resident Linda Goldstein, who has parked in that area when going to the gym since 1995, said she also never had a problem. She noted that her gym bag is common and could be confused with those of other gym-goers, which is why she prefers leaving valuables in her locked car hidden from view.
The arrest came a day after three residents of Roxen, Arrandale and Glenwood roads reported car thefts and one reported an attempted break-in on May 9, all of which occurred overnight in their driveways. Stolen items included a laptop, a camera, a gym bag and gift cards. An Andover Road resident also reported to Rockville Centre police on May 12 that a pocketbook and jewelry were taken from her car while it was parked in her driveway overnight.
Vafeades said there was no reason to believe that Williams was involved in the string of alleged thefts, and that police are still investigating. He added that four of the five cars were unlocked.
Though the door was locked during the attempted break-in, Vafeades added, a window was found pushed in and the alarm went off. Police discovered a flashlight next to the car and sent it to be tested for DNA and fingerprints.
“We’ll get it every so often, and when it does happen, it tends to be in one concentrated area,” Vafeades said of the car break-ins, “but over time that area changes. You’ll get three or four, and then they’ll just stop. They’ll move on or they’ll be apprehended.”
Last August, items from five parked cars — one on Arrandale Road, another on Atkinson Road and three on Hargale Court — were reported stolen on the same day. The thefts occurred a day after a similar incident in which the owner of the Dark Horse Tavern had $20,000 stolen from his vehicle. No arrests have been made in connection to those incidents, according to village spokeswoman Julie Scully.
Typically, car thiefs look for unlocked doors, Vafeades said, moving from driveway to driveway until they come across one. In addition to ensuring that doors are locked, Vafeades added, residents could install security lights or cameras at their homes, noting that surveillance systems have helped in a number of police investigations.
He said break-ins are no more prevalent in Rockville Centre than other areas, and that he believes the thefts are connected to the national opioid epidemic. “It’s a quick fix,” Vafeades said. “The people that tend to use these narcotics just want enough money for their next hit, so they go through people’s cars and see if they can get change …”
Surveillance footage on one alleged victim’s home appeared to show four males who have not yet been identified, Vafeades said, adding that police are following up on leads and have extra patrols in the area.
“They continue until they get caught,” he noted. “…They’ll get greedy, and they’ll get caught.”
Williams was released after his arraignment in First District Court in Hempstead on May 11.