A parolee who police believe committed a dozen burglaries of restaurants, grocery and liquor stores — netting nearly $6,000 in cash in the last three months — was nabbed by Nassau cops early Tuesday as he tried to break into a Hempstead supermarket, ending what a top police official called a “one man crime wave.”
Eric Barnett, 50, of Eureka Avenue in Elmont, was arrested at 12:20 a.m. Tuesday outside the Associated Supermarket on Jerusalem Avenue in Hempstead by detectives from the department’s newly created Burglary Pattern Team, who had been tailing Barnett for days, police announced Tuesday afternoon.
Barnett, who police said has been arrested 13 other times for burglaries and other crimes in Nassau and Queens, first allegedly hit the Pat’s Farms grocery store in North Merrick on July 8 at about 1 a.m.
He then burglarized several other businesses, police said, including three shops beginning at midnight within a three-hour time period on Aug. 16 — a West Hempstead wine store, a bagel store and a Ralph’s Italian ices in Franklin Square.
In several of the heists, police allege, Barnett used a crowbar and a sawing tool to gain entry by making holes in the roofs of the businesses, causing thousands of dollars in damage, police said.
Early Tuesday, Barnett had climbed over a fence to get behind the grocery store, but apparently saw cops and “climbed back over the fence and attempted to flee,” police said. He was arrested without incident.
Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki said at a news briefing at police headquarters in Mineola, “This exemplifies the coordination that we’re looking for between our specialty units, our intelligence team and our officers in the street. We’re able to start small and build on that, identify somebody and ultimately catch them in the act.”
Barnett, who was being interviewed Tuesday and was described by Skrynecki as “cooperative,” is set to be arraigned in First District Court in Hempstead Wednesday on 12 counts of third-degree burglary, police said. It was unclear whether Barnett has an attorney.
The department’s Burglary Pattern Team was created in January to stem a 28 percent uptick in residential burglaries and has since seen them decline 7 percent over last year, police said. The team recently noticed the pattern in commercial burglaries and was able to connect a burgundy SUV to some of the scenes.Commercial burglaries this year are relatively flat over last year, with 321 reported through Oct. 11, 2015, and 323 reported in the same time period this year, according to police statistics.
The information on the SUV was blasted out departmentwide in an intelligence bulletin, and a pair of officers spotted it twice on Thursday in Elmont, Skrynecki said.
Officers Margaret Woloszyn, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the police department and a state trooper, and Christopher Black, both on the job for less than two years, saw the vehicle go by and later the same night saw it parked but running and unoccupied, Skrynecki said.
When the driver returned to the burgundy Nissan Xterra, the officers stopped the car, interviewed the man, but “had no probable cause” for an arrest, Skrynecki said.
But the officers relayed the name of the driver and license plate number to the burglary team, whose detectives began following the vehicle, resulting in Tuesday’s arrest.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano Tuesday praised the officers for their work.
“The newly created burglary task force has successfully combated home break-ins and reduced crime to historic lows helping make Nassau one of the safest large suburban counties in the USA,” he said in a statement.
Carlos Batista, manager of the Associated Supermarket where Barnett was arrested, said the store only opened a month ago. Batista, of Corona, Queens, has operated small grocery stores in Brooklyn and the Bronx and had been burglarized in the past.
“Oh my God; it happens all the time,” said Batista, 60.
The supermarket is already armed with surveillance cameras both inside and outside — including on the roof — but Batista said he called the alarm company out after cops told him what happened to make sure all the equipment is working properly.
According to online court records, Barnett, who has been convicted of committing burglaries dating back to 1984, pleaded guilty in 2009 to third-degree burglary and was sentenced to 3 to 6 years in prison. Barnett, then from St. Albans, Queens, was released to parole supervision on June, 19, 2015, according to the department of corrections.