'Dear Thief…' The Victim of Jewelry Theft Pens a Letter to the Perp

Cass Lilien continues making jewelry in her Harrison Street shop, with a note to the store's burglar posted in the window. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Mar. 19, 2014

On the storefront window of her tiny Harrison Street jewelry store and studio, Cass Lilien posted a letter last month that begins, “Dear Thief.”

The letter was a plea to the burglar who broke into her Tribeca store during the night of March 13 and stole more than $20,000 worth of rings and necklaces. “Please do the right thing and return it, no questions asked,” the letter reads.

Lilien said she penned the note after a customer saw how upset she was and said the thief probably walks by her shop every day. Writing to the perpetrator would lift her spirits, the customer told her.

“I did it, and it’s goofy, but it made me feel way better,” said Lilien, 48, standing beside her little workspace in the closet-sized shop at 24 Harrison St. “I don’t know why.”

“I hope you read this so you can understand how your thoughtless crime affected me,” she told the burglar. “This was not a crime against a big insurance company but an artist and small business owner.”

Lilien reported to the police that she left her shop on March 13 around 6:15 p.m. When she re­turned the next day a little after noon, she found that an assortment of jewelry—including designer bangle bracelets, a gold chain with diamonds, a Lon­don topaz ring and a cameo ring—were gone.

The glass cabinet once filled with many jewelry pieces is now empty. And 10 necklaces that once hung around the neck of a bust were missing. But jewelry on the rest of the shelf was untouched.

“I don’t think they wanted to spend any time in the window,” Lilien said.

Police interviewed residents in the apartments above her store but said they had no leads.

Since Lilien posted the letter, many passersby have come in, telling her they are sorry about the burglary.

Meanwhile, she struggles to process the loss.

“I worked really hard to create a really special atmosphere and a nice experience when you come in here,” she said, “and it feels like some of that got taken away from me.”