Two men and a woman broke into a locker at a Manhattan gym in February and stole credit cards, the first in a series of similar thefts.
Three months later, in May, a young man tried to rob a Chase bank in the Bronx armed with only a note, which he slipped to a teller. She read it and stepped away, and he fled empty-handed. Weeks later, in June, a gunman robbed a Family Dollar store in Queens.
Gym-locker heists, bank robberies, daylight holdups — these New York City crimes have only one thing in common, and it is not the culprits.
It is the Yankees caps they wore.
A curious phenomenon has emerged at the intersection of fashion, sports and crime: dozens of men and women who have robbed, beaten, stabbed and shot at their fellow New Yorkers have done so while wearing Yankees caps or clothing.
One of the three suspects in the gym break-ins wore a blue Yankees cap. A security camera photographed the man who tried to rob the Bronx bank, and though his face was largely obscured, his Yankees hat was clearly visible. The Queens robbery suspect was last seen with a Yankees cap on his head.
Gangsta rap link?
In some ways, it is not surprising that Yankees attire is worn by both those who abide by the law and those who break it. The Yankees are one of the most famous franchises in sports, and their merchandise is widely available and hugely popular.
But Yankees caps and clothing have dominated the crime blotter for so long, in so many parts of the city and in so many types of offenses, that it defies an easy explanation. Criminologists, sports marketing analysts, consumer psychologists and Yankees fans have developed their own theories, with some attributing the trend to the popularity of the caps among gangsta rappers and others wondering whether criminals are identifying with the team’s aura of money, power and success.
Since 2000, more than 100 people who have been suspects or persons of interest in connection with serious crimes in New York City wore Yankees apparel at the time of the crimes or at the time of their arrest or arraignment. The tally is based on a review of New York Police Department news releases, surveillance video and images of robberies and other crimes, as well as police sketches and newspaper articles that described suspects’ clothing. No other sports team comes close.
The Mets, forever in the shadow of their Bronx rivals, are perhaps grateful to be losing this one: only about a dozen people in the same review were found to be wearing Mets gear.
“It’s a shame,” said Chuck Frantz, 57, the president of the 430-member Lehigh Valley Yankee Fan Club in Pennsylvania. “It makes us Yankees fans look like criminals, because of a few unfortunate people who probably don’t know the first thing about the Yankees.”