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Concerned Pelham Residents Meet About Robberies

PELHAM, N.Y. – Police Chief Joe Benefico, Supervisor Peter DiPaola and worried residents shared tips to protect themselves from becoming victims of crime Thursday night following two recent armed robberies.

Loring Avenue resident Kristin Austin arranged a meeting at the house of a neighbor, Janine Yorio. The pair said they had grown concerned following two robberies in January that occurred near the train station. In the first, a 21-year-old man was robbed on Jan. 12. And on Jan. 31 a female was the victim. In both cases, police said, the individuals were approached from behind by a black man, roughly in his 20s, thin, 5’10” to 6’0”, wearing all dark clothes and in one case, a ski mask. In both, the man had a black semi-automatic handgun, according to Benefico.

Residents said one of the best defenses against crime could be better communication with law enforcement. One resident suggested the village start an email chain to send out pertinent alerts and information. Trustees Geoff Lewis and Joe Marty, who were both present, jumped on the idea and began compiling email addresses of those in attendance.

Another safety precaution suggested at the meeting was that residents take designated routes for areas they travel frequently. The group suggested using the email chain to notify residents when there are any issues, such as poor lighting, with certain popular paths.

Benefico said the Pelham Police Department is working with the Mamaroneck Police Department and the Bronx robbery unit to solve the two crimes. A similar incident occurred at the Mamaroneck train station on Jan. 18. Benefico believes the robberies are connected.

The mother of the first victim and husband of the second attended the meeting. Both told the group about the experience of their loved one.

“All of a sudden he was walking up the hill and he heard footsteps from out of the side of a driveway,” said the mother of the first victim. “And there was the guy with the ski mask and the gun and said lie down. He got all of $15 and his iPhone.”

In 2011 there were two robberies in Pelham, Benefico said. In 2009 and 2010, there were nine and eight respectively. The highest number in Pelham occurred in 2005 when there were 12 robberies.

While residents were still concerned, Benefico thought the meeting went well.

“It was a very good meeting – a good exchange of information,” he said. “My objective is to get the correct information out there and then answer the questions and concerns of the residents, and there were many.”

He said he hoped  the residents and the police department could help each other to catch the thief.

“Hopefully we’ll work together and if this suspect comes back to Pelham, hopefully we’ll all work together and we’ll grab him,” he said.

Austin and Yorio both said they were pleased with how the night went and were hoping to capitalize on the ideas and tips that were brought up to help the police nab the suspect.

“I think the next step needs to be trying to figure out what we can do as neighbors because a lot of it was listening to the police relay information,” said Yorio. “The next step, though, is to try and figure out how we can actually make a difference.”

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