Just one night after the boys and girls of the Deirdre O’Mara School of Irish Dance in Yonkers danced their hearts out at their school fundraiser at Rory Dolan’s, a heartless thug who has since been caught tarnished the innocent atmosphere of their beloved dance studio.
Ivan Stoytchev, a 30-year-old resident of the Bronx, turned himself last week. He was placed under arrest and charged with third degree burglary. Stoytchev has six prior arrests since April of 2006, mostly for narcotics offenses.
In the early morning hours of Tuesday, November 12, O’Mara’s studio on South Devoe Avenue in Yonkers was broken into and ransacked.
O’Mara painstakingly watched eight minutes of surveillance footage of the crook going through every corner of her studio. She had installed a camera in order to monitor mischief if and when it occurred, but this was not the kind she had in mind.
“I didn’t put it in for the purpose of catching burglars,” O’Mara told the Irish Voice. “I put it in for the purpose of keeping an eye on the kids in real time when I’m in the studio teaching.”
Among the stolen items were a laptop, an iPod player and petty cash. The money raised at the fundraiser was not there for the thief to get his hands on.
The material items were only a mere concern for O’Mara as compared to the most important thing that was taken from her and her students -- their security.
“He made it feel like an unsafe place. To do that to the children is just unacceptable,” she said. “A lot of these kids come to dance class four and five times a week and it’s their home away from home. The last thing I want is for them to feel that this isn’t a safe place.”
With several of her student’s fathers being members of law enforcement, efforts to catch the perp were immense.
Yonkers PD Detective Russell Kilgore was assigned to the case and, according to O’Mara, even he was amazed by the desire of the community to assist.
“He said he’s had cases with 50 witnesses in which nobody would speak, while in this case there were no witnesses, yet everybody was trying to help,” O’Mara said.
Once a picture of the suspect was released by the police O’Mara turned to social media to spread his image in hopes of an arrest. Due to her involvement with the McLean Avenue Merchants Association and the McLean Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade, O’Mara had several Facebook pages on which she could display the suspect’s mug.
The community response was enormous. The wanted poster was shared on Facebook pages hundreds of times over. The very evening the posters were shared, Stoytchev turned himself in due to the community pressure.
Upon entering the precinct, Stoytchev proclaimed that he had made a mistake, that he was ashamed and asked that the posters be removed from Facebook. Unfortunately for him, there is no “un-tag” option for this unflattering photo.
O’Mara wants to express her gratitude to the community and the Yonkers Police Department for their efforts. She hopes the enormous community response will prevent something like this from happening again.
“I hope it makes people think twice about breaking and entering in this area,” she said. “It’s community watch at its best.”