April 23, 1984 12:00 PM

With the bold, square frames perched elegantly on the nose, the sleek, glittering earpieces like racing stripes across the temples, Cazal eyeglasses can make a person feel important. Fellow wearers of the flashy German-made specs include such notables as Tom Jones, Lee Majors and King Hussein. The fashion has taken hold to the point that America’s eyewear trendsetters would not dream of seeing, or of being seen, without their Cazals. The glasses, which come in more than 50 distinctive styles, carry hefty price tags of up to $350 a pair.

But when the fashion spread from Rodeo Drive to the mean streets of Northeastern cities, it sparked a lethal crime wave. Nowhere has the fad proved deadlier than in Philadelphia, where police report at least 10 robberies and three deaths related to Cazals since last November. “They’re easy to get, they’re sitting right on people’s faces. All it takes is for someone to grab them and run,” says Philadelphia Police Captain John McLees. One of the victims was 17-year-old William Sanford III, who was waiting for a bus last month when a stranger stepped in front of him and stole his Cazals. Sanford struggled with the thief, who pulled a gun and shot him dead.

Cazals are such a status symbol in Philadelphia that William Nigro, owner of Eyeglass Encounters, says that even kids with perfect vision wear them—with clear lenses. Although Cazals are extremely valuable on the street, it seems muggers aren’t stealing them primarily for their resale value. Says Philadelphia’s D.A., Edward G. Rendell, “Clearly, the motivation is to wear the glasses. It’s just pure insanity.”

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