Meet the shoplifter with 101 arrests — and let go almost every time

Worst of the worst or dumbest of the dumb?

The career crook who the NYPD calls the city’s “Recidivist No. 1” is an ex-con who apparently didn’t learn much behind bars — because surveillance video allegedly shows him sporting the same distinctive headwear during a series of thefts from a Manhattan department store.

Harold Gooding, 53, was caught on camera repeatedly wearing the same white bucket hat while allegedly stealing housewares from a Target in Tribeca on five dates between May 12 and June 16, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

Gooding — whose Facebook page shows he has a penchant for hats and sparkle filters — was busted about two blocks from the store while allegedly trying to make his getaway following the most recent heist.

Cops allegedly found towels, bedsheets and cookware swiped from the store and worth $430 in the tote bags he was carrying.

The other capers — which involved items including a blender, coffee maker, cookware and two air fryers — pushed the total value of his alleged hauls to more than $2,000.

But because of New York’s controversial bail reform law, he was freed without bail on supervised release following his arraignment, the DA’s Office said.

Gooding, who’s racked up a staggering 101 arrests, is also being investigated in around 17 other thefts from the same Target store, according to the DA’s Office.

Gooding was spotted by his choice of hat apparel.
Facebook/Harold Gooding Jr

In February, Gooding pleaded guilty to petit larceny in another Manhattan case and received a conditional discharge that required him to stay out of trouble and return to court periodically, records show.

After failing to show up, he was arrested on a bench warrant in July and his conditional discharge was extended for a year, records show.

On Wednesday, sources identified Gooding as the unnamed repeat offender who the NYPD put at the top of a list of the city’s “Worst of the Worst.”

“How many crimes do you think he really committed? Two hundred? Three hundred? A thousand?” a frustrated NYPD Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael Lipetri asked rhetorically during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

“And guess what? He’s walking around the streets of New York City today, probably committing another crime as we speak.”

Mayor Eric Adams held the news conference at One Police Plaza as part of his efforts to get state legislators to roll back the 2019 bail reform law to target repeat offenders.

Gooding has served three prison terms, starting with a 1-to-3 year sentence for an attempted burglary conviction in Brooklyn in 1994, according to state records.

He was sent upstate again in 1996 for an attempted robbery conviction in Brooklyn under the alias of Jamiel White, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said.

Gooding’s most serious conviction, for first-degree robbery in Brooklyn, got him a 10-year sentence in 2001 and he was paroled in 2008, records show.

The landlord at Gooding’s last known address in The Bronx said he lived there for about three years before moving out in June 2021 after the landlord called the NYPD to accuse him of stealing packages left for other tenants.

The landlord, who gave his name as Henry, said cops have visited the building to look for Gooding at least four times, most recently about 10 days ago.

“We thought he was a good guy,” Henry said.

“By the time he left, he wasn’t a good guy.”

Gooding’s mom, Delores Stroy, 72, appeared to be in denial when The Post told her the NYPD put her son at the top of its “Worst of the Worst” list of the city’s repeat offenders.

“Not my Harold,” she said during a brief phone interview.

“I know nothing about that. That’s what you say.”

A spokesperson for the Legal Aid Society, which is representing Gooding in both of his pending cases, didn’t return a request for comment.

But in a statement Wednesday, the public defender group accused Adams and the NYPD of trying “to cherry-pick a handful of cases to misguide New Yorkers and convince them that bail reform is responsible for all of society’s ills.”

Additional reporting by Priscilla DeGregory