Barry Bartel has a criminal history going back to 1989 and more than 125 court arraignments on his record, but Wednesday night he was a free man walking through the Back Bay and eyeing tony spots like the Valentino clothing store, according to police officials.
Nearby, however, were Boston police officers from the Special Investigations Unit, who had been watching Bartel for two days after learning he was a suspect in recent larcenies and break-ins.
They watched him unsuccessfully try the door at the Galerie d'Orsay art gallery and then lost sight of him for about five minutes, a police report said. When he reemerged at 10:30 p.m., police say, Bartel had forced his way into the James Perse clothing boutique on Arlington Street and made off with a black plastic trash bag filled with nearly $8,000 worth of pants and shirts.
He tried to flee in a taxicab that he had hailed, but was arrested after a struggle, the police report said.
"He's a known career criminal and I think, obviously, our detectives were looking for him operating in the area," Police Commissioner William B. Evans said Thursday.
Bartel's arrest came as officers target property criminals who are trying to take advantage of the recent onslaught of snow and how it has distracted people, police said. Property crimes tend to creep up during extreme weather, while violent offenses decline, Evans said.
"The criminals think they can hide behind the snow," he said. "We step up our patrols."
Bartel, 42, who is listed as homeless in a police report, appeared in Boston Municipal Court Thursday to answer new charges including breaking and entering in the nighttime, larceny over $250, and resisting arrest. Not-guilty pleas were entered on his behalf.
Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Eric Anderson said Bartel accumulated nine open cases over the last two years for offenses such as breaking and entering in the nighttime, larceny from a building, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
The assault case originated in Quincy and involved a domestic violence incident with his sister, said Michael Connolly, a spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey.
In 2009, Bartel was sentenced to two to four years in prison for larceny in Middlesex County, Anderson said.
At Anderson's request, Boston Municipal Court Chief Justice Roberto Ronquillo Jr. revoked Bartel's bail on three of his open cases and set bail at $20,000 for the new allegations.
Ronquillo said rescinding bail was "necessary to ensure the safety of the community."
Bartel's court-appointed attorney, David Fitzgerald, objected, saying his client has no money and recently completed a six-month treatment program. He did not say what treatment Bartel received.
He is scheduled to return to court on March 19.
Bartel's criminal history includes a range of property crimes, including residential break-ins and commercial burglaries, Evans said.
A law enforcement official briefed on the case who requested anonymity said Bartel has been arrested in 11 cities and towns, including Dedham, Hingham, Somerville, Lynn, Natick, and Malden.
In 2008, Newton police circulated his photograph after they said he stole a $110,000 diamond ring from Shreve, Crump & Low at The Mall at Chestnut Hill.
Three years earlier, Bartel received an 18-month sentence for breaking into an apartment in Brighton by removing the screen from a bedroom window as he yelled that someone was shooting at him, according to court records.
Bartel faces two open cases in Brookline, including one in which police say he stole brass knobs and other door parts valued at approximately $2,000 from a Beacon Street building that houses a methadone clinic where he was a patient, according to court records.
In another case, Brookline police arrested Bartel and another man on June 13, 2013, after finding a crowbar, screwdriver, power handsaw, gloves, and signal jammer in the vehicle the suspects were traveling in, according to a police report filed in Brookline District Court.
Evans said when it comes to property crimes, many times repeat offenders like Bartel are to blame.
"Career criminals go right back to the same crime," he said.