by John F. Schaffner

A 6-foot-tall burglar with a small mustache and glasses has been entering high-rise apartment buildings in Buckhead and Midtown posing as a flower deliveryman or maintenance person checking on water leaks and victimizing elderly residents—making off with money and jewelry, but not credit cards.

In Buckhead, a person with the same description and mode of operation has hit Cathedral Towers, a senior citizen high-rise in the 2800 block of Peachtree Road, the Campbell-Stone, another seniors high-rise at 2911 S. Pharr Court behind The Peach shopping center, and the higher-priced Canterbury Court senior high-rise at 3750 Peachtree Road. A person with the same description victimized residents at Lutheran Towers, at 727 Juniper Street in Midtown.

The suspect remained at large as the Buckhead Reporter went to press Dec. 30.

According to Kathy Gottlieb, Cathedral Towers operating manager, the “nicely dressed” 35-45 year-old man, wearing a khaki windbreaker and khaki pants, entered Cathedral Towers just before 7 p.m. on Dec. 16 “carrying a holly bush and begonia” she said he apparently had bought at a grocery store.

Gottlieb said the suspect signed in at the front desk as P. Johnson, as if he were a delivery person, and then proceeded to enter apartments of elderly residents on several floors of the 14-story building that has 195 apartments.

Cathedral Towers has video cameras on each floor which recorded every move of the burglar as he entered and left apartments on the eighth through 14th floors. The videos provide a clear picture of the suspected burglar’s face.

Gottlieb explained that, in one case, the camera recorded the suspected burglar removing a woman’s purse from her apartment, sitting down in the hallway and going through the purse and then returning the purse to her apartment. All this took place while the woman apparently was in the apartment but failed to notice him.

The resident took out the trash and left the apartment door unlocked while she went down the hall—something many residents in these buildings often do. The man apparently was hiding in her closet when she returned and then made his escape while she was there, according to Gottlieb.

The man discovered the woman’s purse while in the closet and took $700 from it. But Gottlieb said he did not leave two women he took large amounts of money from without any cash. He left one woman $20 and another $33.

Gottlieb said the man spent a little over an hour in her building, with his entire route being captured on the security cameras. He entered Cathedral Towers by the front door—the only way into the building. She said the staff did not stop him because they were dealing with two other people at the front desk.

The burglar hit every floor between the eighth and 14th, with his last stop being on the eighth. The resident was not in the apartment when he entered it, but returned while he was still there. The burglar, who had already taken money from a drawer, told that resident he was there to check a water leak. He then left taking the back stairs

His last victim alerted Gottlieb who said all the maintenance staff leave at 5 p.m. That is when Gottlieb began reviewing the security tape. She had a meeting with the residents the next day to scold them for not locking their doors and to inform them she was taking the video to the police and media.

Gottlieb said she ended up having to take the video to the Zone 2 precinct herself days after the incident. It was almost a week after the Dec. 16 incident at Cathedral Towers that Zone 2 police finally distributed photographs and video of the burglary suspect in action throughout the police department.

A phone call from the Buckhead Reporter to Zone 2 Commander Major Robert Browning was the first he had heard about the incident or the other incidents at the Campbell-Stone and Canterbury Court high-rises, all in Zone 2 in Buckhead.

Gottlieb’s main reason for calling the media, she said, was because the senior citizens who live in these high-rise apartments need to be aware of what is going on and lock their doors to protect themselves.