Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Yeah, brilliant police work

Updated: I was able to get the full article, which confirmed what I was thinking.

A New York Post exclusive:
FARE GAME: POLICE HUNT 'FIRE FAKE' BY METROCARD

Cops have been covertly tracking phone-fireman sex suspect Peter Braunstein as he slithers around the city - thanks to his Metrocard.

Authorities know exactly when and where the creepy and crafty 41-year-old scribe has used his card to board trains and buses since he became a fugitive two weeks ago.

And they know he travels only in daylight.

"He's been walking the streets during the day, riding the subways, taking buses," one police source said.

Braunstein entered the West Fourth Street station in the Village early last week, sources said — and the cops missed him by just two hours.

At other times, cops have come within minutes of catching him. On Friday, they were within 15 minutes of nabbing him after a tipster told them he was on the street in Chelsea, sources said.

Earlier in the week, Braunstein was reported at a Richmond Hill subway station near his mother's Queens home, police sources said.

It's been a typical cat-and-mouse scenario that has been repeated since Braunstein went on the lam after the twisted Halloween attack on a former fashion-magazine co-worker in Chelsea.

And cops are becoming increasingly frustrated.

Detectives were hoping the fugitive journalist would make a slip-up — and he almost did. He bought the unlimited-ride MetroCard using his credit card.

The purchase automatically registered his information on the MetroCard — which was then transmitted back to a computer every time the card was swiped through a turnstile.

It enabled detectives to check every subway station to trace his travels.

But such a check takes several hours to return information to cops — meaning Braunstein was likely long gone from any station he passed through by the time detectives learned he had used the card there.

That tracking time can be cut down to several minutes, but only if cops know a specific station to which the suspect might be headed.

They could then narrow down the search to that site.

Potential crucial leads from Braunstein's MetroCard use have since dried up, police sources said, because his unlimited card expired at some point last week.

Even if he buys another MetroCard, it would likely be with cash, since he appears to be well aware that detectives are tracking all activity on his credit cards, authorities said.
On Halloween, this sicko dressed as a firefighter and set a small fire outside a woman's apartment. He had apparently stalked her for some time, and this was his ruse to get her to open the door.

Why is the NYPD being this stupid? Why did they reveal that they can track him via his Metrocard, not just his credit cards? He might have slipped up again and decided it would be safe to use his credit card at a major subway hub to buy a new Metrocard. Granted there's lag time for the MTA computers to register where he used his Metrocard, but it's still a trail. Until now, the police had a way of following him around the city -- and just that he's still in the city is very important.

Even had his unlimited-ride Metrocard not yet expired, a replacement wouldn't be terribly expensive, only $76, and that would certainly be a small price compared to what he's willing to pay to be untrackable. Unlike the blabber-mouth NYPD, the suspect has been extremely elusive and is far from an idiot. At this point, he might decide to flee the city altogether.

I originally said that at the very least, he now knows he should dispose of his current Metrocard, and that he could give it to someone on the street, which will send the police on a wild goose chase. I suggest now that this guy is crafty enough that he might buy a replacement card with his credit card anyway, then give it to a bum.

If he wants to play it strictly safe, at any time, he can purchase a replacement card, with cash, from one of the automatic vending machines, which eliminates his need to buy from a human (and risk being caught).

It shouldn't be hard for him to notice this new news that the NYPD can track him via Metrocard usage, since the Post featured this (and several other articles about him) on the cover. For 25 cents a day, he can stay on top of the latest intelligence of his possible whereabouts and travel patterns.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice piece, but do you think every move of this investigation is documented in the NY Post? Unless you have information that isn't filtered through the media first, I wouldn't assume the police are idiots because this nut hasn't been caught yet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 7:15:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

It's likely there's more than what we're told, but the police, through the media, gave the suspect a tip on how to be more careful (or how to set them on a wild goose chase). So much for "covert" tracking.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 8:24:00 PM  

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