Car thieves busted, apprehended on bridge as NYPD's new strategy pays off

NYPD's strategy is aimed at avoiding high-speed pursuits by tracking vehicles with technology like license-plate readers, trapping them at traffic choke points

By Rocco Parascandola
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Three car thieves with nowhere to go were busted in Staten Island Wednesday after cops slowed traffic on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, forcing them to abandon their vehicle and jump 15 feet down from the roadway to the grounds of Fort Wadsworth, police said.

The arrests came as police pursue a new strategy aimed at avoiding high-speed pursuits by tracking vehicles with license-plate readers and other technology, and trapping them at traffic choke points.

NYPD Assistant Chief Joseph Gulotta, the commanding officer for Staten Island, said an app shared by the NYPD and cops in New Jersey, along with constant intelligence sharing, has helped crack down on the problem of New Jersey criminals coming into New York City to steal cars or commit other crimes.

The Wednesday incident involved a Range Rover stolen during a home invasion in New Jersey.

The Range Rover’s driver got past police on the Brooklyn-bound side of the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge — and then returned back to Staten Island a few minutes later, shortly before 11 a.m.

By then, Gulotta said, the NYPD had stopped traffic on the bridge, giving giving the suspects nowhere to go. The police plan was to trap the vehicle on the bridge.

“The idea is not to chase [these vehicles],” Gulotta said. “The idea is to have [these cars] travel to the Verrazzano, the Goethals, the Bayonne bridges, where we put mitigation point in place...and we’re able to pin these cars in.”

In this case, Gulotta said, the plan worked perfectly, with the driver and his passengers stuck in traffic.

Two of the three suspects “bailed from the car ... [and] made a 15-foot jump down off the roadway, down into Fort Wadsworth,” he said. “We chased them down.”

The third suspect tried to run away without jumping into Fort Wadsworth, said police. Police helicopters tracked the suspects, allowing police to place all three of them in custody.

Charges against the suspects were pending. Their names were not immediately released.

On Tuesday, police said, Joshua Padilla, a 29-year-old ex-con with more than 200 arrests on his record, was busted in Washington Heights after stealing two vehicles.

Police said a license plate reader flagged a 2021 Dodge Charger — stolen Aug. 2 on Staten Island — as Padilla steered through the Holland Tunnel shortly before 11:30 a.m.

Aided by the car’s GPS system, the NYPD tracked Padilla to the Henry Hudson Parkway in Washington Heights.

When officers tried to stop him near W. 158th St., Padilla hit the brakes and ran off, leaving behind his passenger, Sophia Serroukh, 23.

Padilla then jumped off an overpass three blocks south, then hopped into a work truck that was unoccupied with the engine running, police said.

But Padilla didn’t get far before he crashed the work truck into a police cruiser inside Riverside Park, near W. 166th St., police said. The suspect and two cops were treated at a hospital for minor leg injuries.

Padilla was charged with grand larceny auto and possession of stolen property. Serroukh, who lives with Padilla in Bushwick, was charged with possession of stolen property.

Police said Padilla has more than 200 arrests dating back to when he was a teen and had seven warrants. Records show he was paroled in January 2021 after serving three years in state prison for grand larceny.

©2023 New York Daily News.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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