A thief is running rampant in NYC. His target? The sanctity of our yoga studios. This is NOT OK. YogaCityNYC reports that a man posing as a yoga student has visited eleven studios, having stolen from seven of them in the past year.
His play goes like this: the man shows up ready to take class, signs in, does all the required paperwork, then tells the front desk he’s waiting for a friend. All normal enough. But instead of taking the class, he slips back to the bathroom or changing rooms, steals a bunch of valuables like iPhones, credit cards and cash and then peaces out before anyone has a clue what happened.
Studios like Yoga Vida, House of Jai, and Sacred Sounds Yoga all reported theft with similar stories of strategic deception. Thankfully, an email has been circulating to many of the city’s yoga studios warning of the thief, advising everyone to keep their eyes peeled, which has helped prevent a few further thefts. This is not something you want to think about when attending or working at a yoga studio, but sadly this is the reality we have to face.
‘He came early, signed up for the Lunch Express, and said he was waiting for his friend,’ said Stephanie Tang of Sacred Sounds Yoga on Bleecker Street. ‘I asked him if he practiced yoga, and he mentioned several names of different styles…he clearly had done his homework.’
A routine new-student-orientation evolved into a dismaying situation. After using the restroom, the thief informed Tang that his friend was running late. Then he left, saying he would return. When class ended, a Mac laptop and three hundred dollars were missing from the changing rooms.
It’s a real shame that this guy is not only stealing valuables like smartphones and money, but also our peace of mind, something many of us go to yoga class specifically to find. Many of us leave our phones and belongings outside of the studio space on purpose in order to separate ourselves and take a tiny breather detached from our devices.
What to do? Are studio employees not vigilant enough or are students too blissfully carefree and trusting with their belongings when going to class? Probably a little of both. Front desk people are often karma yogis (helpers getting paid with yoga classes) or young people who may get overwhelmed by foot traffic or just distracted by everything going on around them. In smaller studios, it’s the teachers at the front desk (and frequently the only other person in the entire studio) who then lock everyone IN the space before class, which, if the perp is already there, doesn’t help much.
As yoga students, short of strapping your phone to your hip holster-style, it might not be a bad idea to keep your luggage light when heading to the studio and try to keep your wallet and phone nearby.
Even if the crimes are reported to the police, they’re too busy with other more serious stuff to focus much energy on petty larceny, says NYC lawyer Norah Hart. So, besides hiring buff and intimidating looking bouncers, what can yoga studios do? YogaCityNYC’s Cynthia Kling spoke with inmates at a New York maximum-security prison incarcerated for crimes like burglary, robbery, and arson to get their advice on how to deter thieves.
They should install security cameras and post obvious surveillance signs saying the cameras are running 24/7. Even if the cameras are off, the signs will intimidate potential robbers. Also, be sure to employ a capable, on-the-ball, front desk person who is extremely attentive to everyone who walks in. ‘This guy’s probably a low-level drug dealer who cased the studios in advance…someone wasn’t watching when he visited the first time,’ the inmates said.
The yoga thief is described as “tall, burly, black, tattooed, and polite. He wears a pair of diamond earrings and carries a Louis Vuitton satchel.” When we’re all trying our best NOT to profile prospective yoga students and/or thieves, we hope signs and security cameras will be enough. We’d like to think peoples’ conscience would be enough, but this is the world we live in, and benefit-of-the-doubt yogis and studio owners need to understand that, too.
If all else fails, maybe look into hiring this guy: