A graduate student at Columbia University had her laptop swiped by a bearded man on crutches and then watched the thief make a very slow getaway. “He looked like a disabled person,” said victim Hongxiang Huang. “I didn’t think he was the person who took it. I was shocked.”
A law-enforcement source said that the robber is one of the “Columbia Creepers,” intruders who “creep around the hallways and, when nobody is looking, they just take things.” The thieves go to the Morningside Heights campus to prey on affluent students.
“Usually we arrest these guys because there’s always a lot of video and [we say], ‘Oh, that’s the guy from last year,’ and we go out and get him. The guy on crutches we’ve never seen before,” the source said. “He could be using the crutches as a ruse to fake people out.”
During the theft, the suspect hobbled into the School of International and Public Affairs and faked being sick. He pretended that he was “about to faint,” and then snatched an unattended bag with the laptop and fled.
The NYPD released a surveillance photo of the suspect walking outside the building at 420 W. 118th Street. Police say the same thief also stole a wallet from Kent Hall but did not have crutches at the time, according to the New York Post.
Theft is just a part of life on campus. “It happens a couple of times a semester,” said student Andrea Golfari. “Someone gets into the building, and they’ll steal a laptop from a table. People go get coffee and they’ll leave it there.”