Police charge man with York Street mugging

A man matching the description of the perpetrator of five purse-snatchings near the Yale campus was apprehended Wednesday by New Haven police.

Axel Hernandez, 33, was arrested without incident on Church Street South and charged with third-degree robbery and second-degree larceny in connection with the mugging of a Branford College junior on Aug. 30, said Gary Jenkins, a New Haven Police Department spokesman.

Hernandez faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine if convicted.

Jenkins said police “spotted a man fitting the suspect’s description” — young, slight build, dark complexion, clad entirely in black and pedaling a BMX-style bicycle — walking on Church Street South Wednesday afternoon and promptly took him into custody.

New Haven police could not be reached for comment on whether they plan to charge Hernandez in connection with the other four incidents, at least three successful robberies and one failed attempt that occurred during the first week of September.

Each victim described her assailant as a slight black man on a BMX-style bicycle. In most of the incidents, the man rode toward the victim head-on and, without braking, reached for her pocketbook.

In an e-mail sent to the entire Yale community shortly after one of the muggings, Yale Police Chief James Perrotti said detectives from his department and from the NHPD had joined forces to investigate the string of robberies. He added that both Yale and New Haven squads stepped up the patrol intensity near the locations of the crimes.

Yale police could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

This is not the first time the area near the intersection of York and Chapel streets has seen criminal activity. Just after last spring break a sophomore was assaulted and mugged by two local men — later apprehended by police — on High Street near the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house.

“I haven’t exactly felt unsafe since I’ve been here,” Lauren Fine ’06 said. “But I don’t think [the arrest] has much of an effect on me.”

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