Brooklyn burglar who ‘pops locks faster than a key’ haunting residents on one block

traffic safety
Ellana Galinsky unlocks her bike, having lost two others to thieves on Hawthorne Street. Her building had two other bikes stolen from inside. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Residents of one Brooklyn neighborhood are concerned that the same person has been breaking into their buildings, stealing bicycles and delivered packages despite upgraded security systems in the buildings.

Burglaries in much of the city are up, officials have said, with commercial burglaries driving much of the rise due to stores being closed during the COVID-19 crisis. Citywide, there were 564 burglaries, compared to last year of 210.There were 44% more burglary arrests during the month of April, with 520 break-ins recorded; during April 2019, there were just 361.

Many of those in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens community, especially along Hawthorne Street near Bedford Avenue, say that despite extra security measures and capturing the burglar on video surveillance, the suspect has not yet been caught.

Rita Inani, a resident of Hawthorne Street for two years, said six bicycles and numerous delivered packages have been stolen from her building in the last two weeks. She said the burglar continues to gain access to the front door of her building, a six-story 15 apartment condo, and others on the same street despite their best efforts to secure it.

A video of one of the break-ins, provided by Inani, showing the man wearing a dark coat, hat and smoking a cigarette is believe to be the same man responsible for numerous other burglaries on the same block.

“Our first incident was a forced entry on May 9, and in the video, you can see the male approach the building – clearly he has long piece of metal and he adeptly pops the lock,” Inani said. “A few minutes later, he can be seen leaving with a bicycle. Over the next 48 hour he comes back four times, taking five bikes and packages.”

Inani said that while she hasn’t lost her bike, she fears a resident might run into the burglar and it might become dangerous.

“We have upgraded security, and we are now just waiting to see if comes back or if he’s been thwarted by increased security measures – but we are not comfortable that it will work,” Inani said. “The building across the street did the same thing, but he still seems to be able to get in.”

She says he has been “more cavalier” walking into the building and calmly smoking a cigarette.

“He is being very cavalier coming at random hours and not someone afraid of being detected,” she said. “My concern is what if a residents sees him in the hallway.”

A video shot of the suspect entering the building on Hawthorne Street this past Friday. Here is the link to see video https://video.nest.com/clip/53f498d6084d4a14a1128ec5867864dc.mp4

Ralph Pahlmeyer, also a resident of the same building, said he lost his bicycle and several packages, including one he was supposed to get from his artist friend in Los Angeles that contained 10 handmade masks.

“This guy is brazen enough to come back after we literally changed the locks, put guards on the door – this guy is really good,” said Pahlmeyer, a resident for nearly two years. He said nearly a dozen packages have been taken from the building and even more from other buildings on the same block.

“We have new condos and they have various common areas including a bike room for example,” Pahlmeyer added. “Now, that room we installed a dead bolt and it seems to do it, but he continues to take packages. This guy pops locks faster than if I had key.”

Police have reached out to the public asking for help from the public about the burglaries.

NYPD officials have been complaining since bail reform went into effect in December, the same people are committing burglaries over and over because they are no longer jailed for those crimes. Many of those who are arrested for burglaries, sources said, are no longer are taken to Rikers Island, but are instead issued a desk appearance ticket.


Bicycles have been particularly in demand by thieves as riding has gone up dramatically during the Covid-19 outbreak. Long lines have been snaking around the corners of bike stores as New Yorkers seek a safe way to get around during the coronavirus crisis. Police officials admit bike thefts and burglaries have been on the rise, and police advise the public to take extra measures to protect those bikes.