What to Know
The I-Team and Telemundo 47 Investiga sent surveys to hundreds of people serving time for robbery in New York and New Jersey prisons
A whopping 70 percent of muggers were always or sometimes under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they committed robberies
Surprisingly, a majority of muggers didn't have a preference as to the sex of their targets, though 43 percent said they targeted men
David Solano figures he's mugged more than 100 people in his life, and he does not particularly care who you are - he's probably going to get you if he wants you.
“My favorite target was anyone alone,” said Solano, who is currently serving a 25-to-life prison sentence in Stormville, New York. The 48-year-old convict says he’s equal opportunity when it comes to his victims.
“It didn’t matter whether it was a man or a woman, it was just basically whether they were alone.”
In an unprecedented crime prevention project, the I-Team and Telemundo 47 Investiga sent surveys to hundreds of convicted robbers in New York and New Jersey the last week of December, asking them questions about how they pick their targets and what you can do to avoid becoming a victim.
Warning Signs You're About to Be Mugged
About 55 percent of the dozens who responded to the questionnaire said their target’s sex made no difference, but appearances were most important.
“Flashy” was a popular answer for muggers when asked to describe their ideal person to rob. Flash means cash, they said: designer jacket or Rolex watch are targets on your back according to 45 percent of muggers, who said nice clothing or jewelry immediately caught their eye.
Those who look defenseless make good victims; 23 percent of muggers said they targeted people who looked lost or drunk because they were easy to overpower.
A mugger thought Elyse Rosales was a vulnerable target when she came home to her Harlem apartment one night. She says someone in the building let him in before he followed her, threw her down the stairs and stole her cellphone.
“I heard the buzzer go off and someone in my apartment building actually let him into the building,” she said. “When he first grabbed me, initially I knew he was gonna mug me. The entire time I just remember mostly I was screaming, 'Help!’”
Most survey respondents said they were looking to steal cash. Jewelry came in a close second, followed by cellphones. A majority said they preferred to strike between 6 p.m. and midnight.
Safety Tips Muggers Would Give Their Moms
If you’re attacked by a mugger, it’s best not to fight back. Mayco Castro, a convicted robber serving a nine-year bid in Dutchess County, fired four shots at neighbors who tried to apprehend him after he stole jewelry, a cellphone and a strong box from his victim’s apartment on 190th Street and Broadway.
“It was going to be my life or their life,” he said. “The victim could have been murdered, he could have been dead."
Like Castro, 70 percent of the hardened felons who responded carry a weapon and nearly half have used them during an attack. But if you do decide to take matters in your own hands, muggers candidly told the I-Team a kick between the legs or jabs to the eyes or the throat are effective ways to ward them off.
Bottom line, muggers say, "Just give it up. Everything can be replaced, but life cannot."
While more survey respondents struck in the bustling city than in the suburbs, most were impartial. The street was the most common place for them to attack in the city, followed by inside or outside a building and on the subway, where muggers said they most often looked for victims in a train car or at the entrance or exit to a station. In the suburbs, muggers said they were most likely to strike as victims entered their homes, but many said they targeted people on the street or in driveways as well. And most convicted muggers responding to the I-Team/Telemundo survey reported attacking with no prior verbal exchange. Those who did speak said it was often to ask for money.
The most common reason they gave for an attack? To pay the bills.
While residents may believe home surveillance equipment is a deterrent to robbers, 74 percent of survey respondents said it never stopped them.
This survey is the first-of-its-kind joint project between NBC 4 New York's I-Team and Telemundo 47 Investiga. Tune in to NBC 4 New York at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 and Friday, Feb. 3 for the exclusive four-part series.