Two teenagers, joking and trash talking each other, get on an elevator at an apartment building at 417 Grand St. Friday evening. A woman, about 30, gets on at the same time and pushes the button for her floor. The kids don't push a button. They get off with her. That's odd, she thinks. No one on her floor has teenage kids these guys might be visiting. She's suddenly wary and doesn't pull out her keys. The teenagers come over to her. Inches from her face, one says, "Do you have any money?"
No, she says. He's taller than she is, and she's tall. "Do you have any money?" he asks her again. Then the other kid asks. She says no. She tells them they need to leave and go back down to security.
They go to the elevator and hit the button. When the doors open, she heads down the stairs, not realizing the kids had not gotten on the elevator. They are behind her on the stairs. She gets out ahead of them and reports the incident to the building's security guard. The kids have disappeared.
After reviewing surveillance video, security find the kids left by the back door. They had stopped at the desk when they first came in. One signed in using the name "James Pond" (which is the name of a computer game). He said he didn't have an I.D. with him, and that he was visiting an apartment that turned out didn't exist.
Saturday, the woman, still shaken, decides to drop by the 7th Precinct to see if she should file a report. She's a native of Detroit, a long-time resident of the Lower East Side and not prone to hysteria about rowdy teenagers. But being backed against the wall in a dark hallway just outside her apartment door worries her in a way that a similar encounter with a couple of teens on the street would not.
An Officer Nicholas is at the front desk of the police station on Delancey and Pitt. The woman describes what happened. The officer wants to know what race the kids were. Black. (She's white.) How old? About 15. Did they demand money? No. Did they touch you? No.
Officer Nicholas says it doesn't sound like a report needed to be filed. "They just politely asked for money," he says.
"It wasn't polite. They were up in my face," the woman objects. Like this. She indicates inches.
It doesn't sound like they committed a crime, says Officer Nicholas. It seems like trespassing would be the only crime they might have committed. Why didn't you call 911 last night?
I didn't think of it then. I was upset, she says. She wonders if the police might be interested in a couple of kids who were looking for trouble. Have there been other incidents? No, he says.
Do you think we should take a report? he asks the sergeant, who has been sitting at the front desk with him the whole time. She says nothing, just gets up and walks away.
You can file one if you want to, Officer Nicholas says.
Couldn't what happened be considered an assault? asks the woman's friend who had accompanied her for moral support (that would be me).
Assault results in injury, the officer explains. Like if I hit you with these, Officer Nicholas says, holding up a pair of handcuffs in his fist. If I punch you in the face, and it swells up, that's assault. If I smack you, or kick you and break your leg, that's assault.
By then, the woman and I are backing up. He's given us enough graphic details of what he could do to us that would constitute a real assault. We leave.
But we learned a couple of things. Verbal intimidation is no crime in New York. And if you don't like it, don't go complaining to the police, or you might just get some more.