LONGWOOD, the Bronx — It's a no-interest, casual form of saving money, called "sociedad," that's fairly common in the Caribbean, as well as in some New York City neighborhoods with residents originally from the Caribbean. In one recent case here, however, the savings arrangement came with a liability -- a potentially deadly one.
Armed robbers staged a fake delivery at the home where the sociedad money was kept. They were able to break in, zip-tie five adults, pistol whip a man, make off with thousands of dollars in cash, and leave three children in the home with nightmares and emotional trauma.
"Terrible, terrible," said a woman, 36, who lives at the apartment near the intersection of Southern Boulevard and Leggett Avenue. She said that she did not want her name used, "because that was a terrible experience."
"They put the gun [to my husband's] head," she told PIX11 News. "I think, 'Oh my goodness, they killed my husband, yeah [I did]. And the kids was crying."
The mom was one of five adults, including her husband, her uncle, and her grandmother, who were in the apartment when the robbery took place around midnight, on New Year's Eve. Three children -- two seven year-olds and a two year-old -- were also in the apartment, when their holiday season got a jolt.
Surveillance video released by the NYPD on Friday shows how dangerous the situation was. The video shows a woman holding a package at the apartment door. She claimed to have a delivery for the family inside. The father of the family opened the door, and that's when two men, standing on either side of the door, pushed it in, with guns drawn. The woman who'd staged the delivery apparently ran off to warm up the getaway car.
"'Where's the money, where's the money?'" the wife of the family in the apartment said that the robbers kept asking them. The robbers then pulled out zip ties. "They tied [our] hand[s] and the feet," the victim said. "They put the kids here in the living room, and they said to the kids, 'Be quiet.'"
By contrast, the attackers shouted at the victim's uncle as they pistol-whipped him in the face. Ultimately, he told them where the cash was from the sociedad. It's a pool of cash, collected over months by a group of families, often in lower income neighborhoods, to help them save.
Each participating family, the woman said, puts the same amount of money into the group fund every month. Once all of the money is collected for the month, one of the families gets to keep the pooled amount. The next month, the process starts over again, with a different family being paid the pooled money. The arrangement allows families access to a relatively large sum of money on a fairly rare, but repeated, basis.
The robbers made off with $5500, then ran to the getaway car that was waiting for them around the corner. All three suspects, a woman and two men, escaped. Surveillance video provided a clear image of the face of one of the men. Somebody knows who he is, and his accomplices as well, which is why the woman who lives in the home that was invaded is making a plea to the public.
"'The kids are afraid," she told PIX11 News. "When they listen at the door, they think that it's happening again."
"If somebody knows the people" who carried out the crime at her home, she asked, "please call the police."
Submit tips to police by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), visiting www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or texting 274637 (CRIMES) then entering TIP577. Spanish-speaking callers are asked to dial 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).