A team of thieves has hinted at detectives’ efforts to recover 400 body armor intended for Ukrainian medical workers stolen from a nonprofit in New York City for nearly two months — but police hope video will help the track down suspects.
Exclusive new video shows the March robbery from the offices of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America on Second Avenue in Manhattan. Police say the nonprofit’s black trash bags, as seen in the video, contained hundreds of life-saving vests donated by local law enforcement agencies.
In less than three hours, three different vans pulled up in front of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America building in the East Village, with multiple people in masks jumping out of each of them and casually walking in. Surveillance videos from a nearby deli showed them dragging large brown boxes full of bulletproof equipment outside and then driving away.
“People in our community are praying in church right now, or everyone feels powerless. They have no power now, and then this happens, and it definitely affects people,” said Andrij Dobriansky, a spokesman for the UCCA. †
The vests were intended for medics, humanitarian workers and others who have joined the fight against the Russian military, not the Ukrainian soldiers themselves, officials said.
Supply operations are underway on Long Island to help Ukrainians fight against Russian forces. That reports NBC New York Pei-Sze Cheng.
“What’s not being supplied is the territorial defenses, the people who transfer humanitarian supplies. So these kinds of donations – whether they’re from Suffolk County, we’ve got a lot of police stations in New Jersey and New York State that donate too, that’s why it’s important,” Dobriansky said.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, support poured into nonprofits like the UCCA, with donations including clothes, toys, diapers and more down the hall.
Police forces in the New York City area have donated hundreds of decommissioned body armor to charities that support Ukrainian troops fighting the Russian invasion.
The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office on Long Island said it was working with the UCCA to donate 450 used, decommissioned vests, but could not confirm that the stolen vests were the ones it donated.
Police are looking for the men caught on surveillance video loading stolen body armor into a minibus, equipment donated to aid the war effort in Ukraine. That reports NBC New York’s Jessica Cunnington.
The sheriff’s office will stop using the vests after five years, but officials said they remain sturdy enough to provide protection in warfare.
“It is despicable that anyone would break into a building to steal supplies and materials intended to help the victims of this humanitarian crisis,” said Vicki DiStefano, a spokesman for Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr.
“As far as we can tell, maybe about three-quarters of that stock was taken last night,” said Dobriansky, adding that neighbors and elected officials near and far had been checking in all day.
“The fact that New York is not only generous, but also very responsive tonight warms our hearts,” he said.
The police are looking for the three vans and who was in them and who is responsible for the theft. They were able to track the vests to Brooklyn, but still haven’t recovered the catch. A reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest.