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Transcript: Mayor Adams Makes Public Safety-related Announcement

February 5, 2024

Deputy Commissioner Tarik Sheppard, Public Information, Police Department: All right, good afternoon, everybody. Seems like we're always coming back here to discuss the great work being done by the men and women of the New York City Police Department, whether it's our patrol officers, our Detective Bureau, just fantastic, fantastic work keeping this city safe. And it's all being led by the man on my left, the Honorable Mayor Eric Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thanks so much, Tarik. Again, I want to thank the men and women of the New York City Police Department for not only keeping our city safe every day, but then every once in a while is going to take a great deal of shoe leather and investigatory skills to bring criminals to justice.

And just from the onset, we want to be extremely clear. It doesn't matter if a person is a migrant, asylum seeker or if the person is a long‑term New Yorker: you break the law, it will be investigated and it will be handled by our criminal justice system.

The Police Department has a job to do apprehensions, the prosecutor has a job to prosecute, and the federal government has a job to determine, if a person is here as a migrant and asylum seeker, should determine if they're found guilty and they do their time they should be deported.

You should not be allowed to walk the streets of the City of New York if you are committing any form of criminal behavior that's impacting the quality of life of New Yorkers.

Came in office two years ago with a clear mission, as I say over and over again, to revitalize our economy and to make our city more livable for working class people, and the foundation of that is public safety, and that is why we're here today.

This morning around 5:30 a.m. the Police Department executed a warrant. I joined them in the Bronx. And I hear people often asking, why are you there as the mayor? Because I'm the general, and generals lead from the front. They don't send their troops into battle and ask how is the war?

Just as I spend the night in HERRCs, just as I ride the subways, just as I visit our hospitals, our schools, you are not going to be a good leader if you stay in a sterilized environment of your office space trying to figure out what's happening on the ground.

I am an on the ground mayor, and I'm here to lead this city out of this crisis that we are facing. We have been extremely successful in decreasing crime in this city because of the work of the New York City Police Department, so today I want to thank them for their precision policing and what they have done in this city over the last two years.

This morning, during the execution of the warrant… We are going to go into the particulars of that on what was recovered and what this pattern is all about. We believe the individuals involved have been involved in 62 robbery incidents across our city, including our transit system, including riding on mopeds, scooters and snatching property of New Yorkers such as iPhones and wallets.

These individuals do not have a license to steal in our city. Mopeds and scooters are being used for crimes and harming innocent people. And I want to be clear, again. The law is coming for those who use mopeds illegally. That is why we have been cracking down on the illegal use of mopeds; and last week, we looked at some of the locations where a large volume of mopeds were located.

It was given the appearance by those who felt as though this was some type of retaliatory action; no, it wasn't. To date, the NYPD seized more than 2,500 illegal mopeds and scooters in 2023, a 74 percent increase over 2022.

While these five individuals were migrants, I want to reiterate, the overwhelming number of 170‑plus thousand migrants and asylum seekers are attempting to continue their next leg of their journey of pursuing the American dream, but those who commit a crime will be treated like any other criminal in this city. No different mindset, no different reactions or no different response from the Police Department.

These small number of people are breaking the law and having a huge impact on our public safety, and that is why we zeroed in on them. And it's our job to do so. It's a job that these officers did well. And again, I want to commend them for their actions.

We're not going to sit idly by while people choose to prey on their fellow New Yorkers. That is why we responded in a manner in which we did. Now, again, commissioner, job well done. Chief Kenny, job well done. We are going to lay out what happened in this incident as you see the images, that are on top.

And now I'm going to turn it over to the police commissioner of the City of New York, Commissioner Eddie Caban.

Police Commissioner Edward Caban: Okay, good afternoon everyone. Thank you, Mr. Mayor; and as always, thank you for your leadership. So, in recent months, a wave of migrant crime has washed over our city, but by no means do the individuals committing these crimes represent the vast number of people coming to New York to build a better life.

But they are, nonetheless, preying on New Yorkers and making our city less safe. And so as with any other criminal enterprise, the NYPD and its partners at the District Attorney's Office move with purpose to disrupt their operations and hold them accountable. That is what today is all about.

At the beginning of this administration, we faced new and emerging challenges in the way of ghost guns and ghost cars. The inability for us to track them disrupts our investigations and makes it that much harder to bring criminals to justice. But as with anything, we learn, we evolve and we get the bad guys.

Today we are seeing similar situations with migrants. They're essentially ghost criminals: no criminal history, no photos, no cell phone, no social media. Sometimes we're even unclear on a name or a date of birth. And on top of that, these operations are extremely sophisticated. They intentionally try to evade the police.

But whenever there is a challenge or a dead end, you can count on the greatest detectives in the world to find a way. So, relying on a great deal of traditional detective work, our investigators were relentless in the pursuit of these suspects; and steadily, they began piecing clues together.

Today is a hard‑fought win. And so I want to extend my thanks and gratitude to everyone who stayed the and cracked the case on behalf of all New Yorkers. I will now turn it over to our chief of Detectives, Joe Kenny, to share more details about this investigation. Chief.

Chief Joseph Kenny, Chief of Detectives, Police Department: Thank you, commissioner. Good afternoon. I'm going to discuss city‑wide grand larceny pattern number 156. The crimes in this pattern involved multiple thieves on mopeds, snatching cell phones and purses from their victims. These thieves would ride up behind their victims on the sidewalk, steal their property and then make their getaway.

The majority of the victims are women simply just walking alone. We have seen that the mopeds used in these crimes are also stolen as well. The first incident of this pattern occurred on the Upper East Side of Manhattan back in November of 2023, and the most recent hit was last night in Lower Manhattan and Chinatown.

There are a total of 62 incidents that we have connected to this pattern so far, touching every borough in New York City except Staten Island, with almost 56 percent of these crimes taking place in Manhattan.

During our investigation, we learned that these perpetrators are part of a sophisticated criminal enterprise made up of migrants who have recently arrived in the United States. This network of these predominantly live in the migrant shelter system.

They use social media platforms to organize and coordinate their thefts. This is how they operate. The leader of the crew, identified as Victor Parra, will blast out a message via WhatsApp that he is looking for phones. Parra will send out specific orders for what type of phone he is looking for. And then the text will say, I have money, I'm available, go get 'em.

Once the messages are received, the crime wave begins with the scooter operators making $100 a day and the actual phone snatcher making between $300 to $600 per phone that is stolen. These stolen phones are then brought to Victor Parra's residence, which is located at 2970 Bronx Park East in the Bronx, which is the Parkside NYCHA Development.

There, Parra employs a tech guy who is able to hack into these stolen phones where he gains access to the victim's financial and banking apps. These apps are used to make illegal transactions and fraudulent purchases in the United States as well as South America.

Once the victim's accounts are empty or holds are put on their transactions, Victor Parra will then ship the stolen phones to Colombia to be reprogrammed.

To date, we have identified 14 members of this crew: seven have been arrested and charged with multiple counts of grand larceny, three have been connected to several crimes and our warrant squad is currently attempting to apprehend them, and we are building cases on the rest.

And the ringleader, Victor Parra, members of the NYPD executed a search warrant at his home this morning at 2970 Bronx Park East. 22 stolen phones were recovered at this location as well as victims' identification. Five arrests were made, including the tech guy responsible for hacking the victims' phones and personal accounts.

Mr. Parra was not home at the time of this execution, but I am confident that U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force will locate him shortly. Mr. Parra is a male Hispanic, 30 years old. His date of birth is June 21st, 1993. He has one prior arrest for grand larceny in Manhattan. He is from Venezuela, and we believe he entered the country some time back in 2023, just as these robberies began to happen.

To put this in perspective, since January 1st, 2024, we have had 32 open patterns involving mopeds and phone snatches compared to one this time last year. That's 147 cases, and that equals 147 victims. Thank you very much.

Deputy Commissioner Sheppard: All right, I'll take a couple of questions, but we're going to stay on topic on this case, all right? Rocco?

Question: For Chief Kenny. Chief, can you talk about Victor Parra's history back home, does he bring this skill set with him or is this something that developed here? And is there any connection between any of the people arrested linked to the Bronx case, are they linked at all to the attack on the officers in Midtown?

Chief Kenny: We're only aware of his criminal history in the United States. We don't know what kind of history he has back in his native Venezuela. And as far as the attack on 42nd Street at this time, we have not connected any of these perpetrators to that incident.

Question: So the mayor and the police commissioner sort of touched on in recent months you've seen a wave of violence involving migrants wash over the city. Can you be more specific about that? Are you seeing a pattern of crime go up specifically with this group of people? And were the people who were arrested overnight undocumented or asylum seekers?

Chief Kenny: As of right now, the people that are connected to the incidents that we're looking at, they've been arrested over a period of time, not just last night. So, you know, we're still working through their status. We don't ask them whether they're here illegally. We don't ask them if they're asylum seekers. Like I said, like the mayor said, we're treating them as we would treat any other criminal. And as far as the incidents that we're seeing, you know, since the arrival back in April of 2023 of migrants, this type of crime, this pattern, we're seeing a significant increase in mopeds being used to commit crimes.

Question: That's it?

Chief Kenny: That's it.

Question: So, just to clarify. The initial number had been 62 but you're saying it's really a total of 147 with this network of 14 people?

Chief Kenny: It's 62 incidents involving just this one pattern, so that's 62 victims. If you look at year to date, you have 32 patterns, there are multiple incidents involved in each pattern. So, it's 147 incidents that are inside of those 32 patterns.

Question: And you think that all 147 or more than 62 could be connected to this group?

Chief Kenny: That's the thing that's, you know, kind of unique about this pattern in itself. Where normally you would have a crew of individuals that are known to each other committing these types of crimes, the commonality here is Mr. Parra. He sends out that message throughout the city.

So, the thieves that are committing this crime don't even know each other, they're not even aware of each other, even to the point we're finding where if I feel like going to steal and I'm by myself I will recruit another person to come with me.

Question: If you could just follow up on the question from earlier. Is there an update on the beating in Midtown South more suspects being sought? And also in regards to that case, is there a concern about the arrest made today about bail being an issue for these suspects as they go through the system?

Chief Kenny: Well, as they go through the system we're hoping that our partners in the District Attorney's Office, you know, they've been assisting us in this case all the way, they're the ones that issued the search warrant for us, that they will request bail on this case. And then it will be up to the judge to make that determination.

Question: Hi, how are you? Are there any, with these suspects here, any connection to bigger criminal organizations, or any gang ties maybe down to Venezuela or even here in the states?

Chief Kenny: We're looking, the assault on 42nd Street, we believe some of the people that participated in that may have gang ties to Venezuela. That's based on social media, some tattoos and some statements that were made while they were in our custody.

But in this case right now, like I said, we're still vetting through it, you know, as far as the bigger picture here. You know, we have stolen phones from New York City being shipped down to Miami, to Houston. We have interstate crimes being committed based on the cash apps being used to clear out people's bank accounts, and then we also have these phones eventually making their way down to Colombia.

Question: How are you guys doin'? I was hoping you could put this in a little more context. I know you guys start off by saying that there was this wave of migrant crime. How does this compare to other crimes that you're seeing at this point that are involving migrants?

And I know that there's an issue because of the documentation you can't ask like what their situation is at the moment, but can you at least speak to incidents happening at the shelters, what types of incidents they are? Is there any data associated to that, kind of like what we have here where you're saying that there's 147 incidents?

Police Commissioner Caban: Yes. Thank you very much, Mark. And once again, we don't track that data. But we're going to be very clear: whether you came to this country three months ago or you've been in this country for 30 years, if you commit a crime in New York City, you're going to be held accountable.

Question: Hi. My question is if there's been a pattern using these illegal mopeds and scooters, is the city doing anything when it comes to these migrant shelters, maybe looking at them more closely? Is there any new like initiative when it comes to the migrant shelters, the city and NYPD?

Deputy Commissioner Sheppard: Yes, I'll have Chief Patrol talk about what we're doing in and around shelters.

Chief John Chell, Chief of Patrol, Police Department: So, just to just to go back to your original question. What we're seeing city‑wide is besides these kind of patents with grand larcenies, and some robberies, we're seeing people getting their pocket picked in Midtown Manhattan or bags being dipped to especially around the Christmas tree, the holiday season.

We're seeing it expand down to the train system. We have picks and dips in train station with these crews. We're also getting, we're hearing things about human trafficking starting to pop up in our world, that we're taking a heavy look into.

In addition to that, we see some groups going to a Sunglass Hut, into Bloomingdale's, into Kings Plaza. So, these are the trends that we are seeing in addition to these patterns we're talking about here.

We also see inside of shelters, in especially Manhattan, we'll see an increase in domestic violence, okay, that's taking place also. So, that kind of puts you into the crime arena.

As far as what are we doing around the shelters besides our presence, our footposts like Lieutenant [inaudible] there on 42nd and 7th the other day, that's what they were there for, for these groups. And we're also honing in on mopeds, the illegal mopeds. We've been doing this for a year and a half.

And as you can see, you can drive by any shelter, you'll see a lot of them parked out there. And some are stolen, some are not registered. They're illegal, they don't belong on the street, and we are taking them. And we're also engaging on the street like we've been doing for the last year and a half to the tune of about 28,000 mopeds, illegal ATVs off the street.

In addition to the ghost cars we're looking at and the paper plates, it also goes into this plus 45,000 in the last 18 months. I'll say it again: plus 45,000 in the last 18 months.

Deputy Commissioner Sheppard: And Anthony, just follow up, as I just told Deputy Mayor Banks, because you asked this question a few times with status. And while this administration, Police Department, we've always talked about welcoming asylum seekers, but once you start robbing people and stealing from them, your status is criminal, and you'll be treated as such, all right?

Question: Does that make it seem, does the mayor [inaudible] think that something more needs to be, a message needs to be sent to, I don't know, there's going to be now a narrative that says that migrants are contributing to an uptick of crime in New York City. This is going to be [inaudible]. What would be your message if that starts to become…

Mayor Adams: First of all, this is a national problem. We need a national solution on both sides of the aisles. Republicans have blocked real immigration reform for many years. It is time for us to deal with this real issue that's impacting cities, not only New York; I speak to my mayors across the country, Chicago, Denver, we see what's playing out in Boston. This is a national problem that's impacting cities.

And our message is a clear one: over 175,000 migrants and asylum seekers that arrived here. This is 12 people. And so any New Yorker that looks at those who are trying to fulfill their next step on the American dream as being criminals, that is wrong. That is not what we're seeing.

The overwhelming number of migrant and asylum seekers want to work. They want to contribute to our society. They believe that we have put a pause on their progression on contributing to our society.

And we should not in any way take these criminals and state that they are the indicators of the people who are here, just as I wouldn't take the average person in a community and say because there's a group of gang Blood members that that is what the community represents, or they're a group of Crips or a group of any other gang.

This is a violent gang that did violent acts, and the same way we would zoom in on a Blood gang, we zoomed in on them. This is not about migrants and asylum seekers; it's about criminals who committed a crime, and we would treat criminals the same if they're longstanding New Yorkers or if they just arrived here last year. These are criminals that we brought to justice.

Question: Hi, I just [inaudible] question, can you clarify how many arrests were made? And also I know that you mentioned that Parra is still being sought, are there any others being sought as well? And then as a follow‑up, is there any more comments on the case of the officers that were assaulted?

Chief Chell: In this incident so far we've made seven arrests. We've identified three other people that we have probable cause to arrest, and our warrant squad is looking for them. And then there's several other people that we're still working cases on.

As far as the assault on 42nd Street, same thing. We have a couple of other participants that have been arrested we have probable cause on and our warrants team is hunting them.

Question: For Chief Kenny. Chief, could you, for the victims in the Bronx case, could you talk about any injuries that may have been suffered and for both in terms of property value and money subsequently stolen, whether it's from credit cards or from bank accounts, could you put a dollar figure on those two categories?

Chief Kenny: For the Bronx? Which incidents..

Question: For this case here.

Chief Kenny: Oh, for the… No, it's, like I said, it's 62 cases, I would really have to break down the exact amount that was stolen. I don't have that exact amount. But it's hundreds and thousands of dollars.

Question: Any injuries to any of the victims?

Chief Kenny: Just bumps and bruises. I think we have a video actually of one of the incidents that shows how these guys operate.

Mayor Adams: This is a video shown on the screen, a bag snatched and as you saw, they dragged the woman that's involved.

Question: Yes, I know that you were talking about that before, but [inaudible] the last [inaudible] of not cooperating with ICE, it says that with one exception, when there is like safety concerns. You were mentioning that Parra was arrested prior, and right now he's at large. So, is this a time that maybe you need to grant these ICE requests, especially because if you are not doing it, you are sending the message to the police that I don't care if you are hit, I'm gonna not cooperate to be responsible with the people that [inaudible] criminals.

Chief Kenny: No, we cooperate with our federal partners and, you know, they do their thing, we do ours. We do work with them. But you know, we do have travel restrictions put on Parra. We have the federal marshals are working with us to hunt him down. So, we do work with our federal partners. But as far as arresting somebody simply based on their immigration status, which is what ICE does, we do not participate in that.

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