Erico Lopez and John Fitzgerald are not your typical crimefighting duo. Instead of tights and capes, they wear suits and ties. They have no secret lair, just their office at the Boston Redevelopment Authority in City Hall. None of that, however, stopped them from fighting crime in Downtown Crossing earlier this week.
While on their lunch break Tuesday, the two 30-year-olds sprang into action when they heard a woman yelling that her purse had been stolen.
“We were just heading to lunch, walking down Washington Street, and we heard a lady yell ‘Thief!’” Lopez said. “She yelled it a couple of times and people were yelling, ‘Catch that guy!’ and all of a sudden there was a guy running by us.”
Faster than the proverbial speeding bullet, Lopez and Fitzgerald followed the alleged thief down the steps of the State Orange Line station. At the bottom of the steps, the man threw the woman’s wallet over a railing, hoping to divert them, but the pair soon cornered him, Lopez said. After alerting a T employee, who called police, Lopez and Fitzgerald had to contain the man until backup arrived.
“Thankfully, he was just kind of sitting there and didn’t really put up much of a fight,” Lopez said. “It was a little uncomfortable. At first, the guy kept trying to squirm by us and was saying, ‘I didn’t do anything,’ but after a while he just sat there.”
Lopez said he and Fitzgerald didn’t think much before they began chasing the alleged thief and that they were both compelled by their “city kid instincts.”
Lopez and Fitzgerald, the son of the late State Representative and activist Kevin W. Fitzgerald, go way back. Both grew up in the neighborhoods of Boston and attended Boston Latin School before heading off to different colleges, Lopez said. Both men were part of the Mayor’s Youth Council, and are now co-workers and roommates.
“They grew up in the neighborhoods and they never let go of public service,” said Susan Elsbree, a BRA spokeswoman. “They’re never off duty.”
When police arrived, Lopez and Fitzgerald were treated to an impromptu high school reunion of sorts: The responding Boston police officer also attended Boston Latin School with the men, Lopez said. The woman whose wallet was snatched caught up with the men, and thanked them for their efforts, Lopez said.
“She was a little distraught,” he said. “She kept saying, ‘Thank you,’ and said that she was chasing the man but didn’t know if she would catch up to him or what she would have done if she caught him.”
Boston police arrived at the scene and arrested the man, Frederick Camp, 50, of Boston, and charged him with larceny from a person, according to a department spokesman.
In a police report filed after the incident, the responding officer noted that the victim “observed two bystanders give chase as well and help recover her wallet when they stopped him in the train station.”
Once the situation was defused, Lopez and Fitzgerald continued with their day, including a presentation to the BRA board of directors later that evening. Before they presented, Chairman Clarence “Jeep” Jones called them “heroes of the BRA.”
As senior project managers for the BRA, Lopez and Fitzgerald are working on initiatives to clean up Downtown Crossing, Lopez said. On Tuesday, he said, they did just that “not only in the planning sector, but person by person.”
“At the end of the day, it was one of those things that we were thinking other people would try to do if they were in our situation,” Lopez said. “Helping out your fellow man is the theme of the story.”