By Sue Ann Rybak
The recent rash of robberies and burglaries in Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy has drawn concerned residents to the Police Service Area (PSA) 4 meeting on Aug. 29 at the Chestnut Hill Library.
Sgt. Nicholas Tees introduced himself and welcomed about 20 residents of Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy. He said that in August, 21 burglaries occurred in the PSA 4 area with the majority occurring in Chestnut Hill.
Tees said Captain Joel Dales has created a special unit called a “burglary team” made up of police officers who are trained to investigate and gather evidence such as finger prints. He said the unit’s efforts have been successful in helping police apprehend criminals.
He advised everyone to lock their doors and windows and “to light it [their residence or car] up.”
“I lock my house up like it’s Fort Knox,” Tees said.
Addressing 911 calls
Tees said that in August PSA 4, which covers Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy, had over 246 “unfounded jobs.” Unfounded jobs are incidents where residents called 911, but when police responded no one was at that location to file a report.
Tees drew the ire of one attendee when he asked callers to remain at the scene. A Chestnut Hill resident became very upset and said it was insulting to ask kids to “stick around after they have been robbed.”
Tees quickly replied, “I would never want any child or adult to stay where they were just robbed.”
He said he was only referring to situations such as car thefts or reports of suspicious behavior. He said victims need to go to a safe location then call police. He advised callers to ask police to meet them at a different location. Reporting suspicious behavior or thefts from automobiles helps police establish “hot zones” or crime patterns.
A Chestnut Hill resident, who preferred not to be identified, said was a victim of a burglary. She said it took police more than two hours to respond to a call when she thought someone was inside her house.
Tees said in that incident the dispatcher failed to enter the call correctly. He said the dispatcher should have entered it as a burglary in process.
“The way you word things makes the dispatcher determine the severity of the situation,” Tees said. “I am sorry you had to go through that experience.”
Tees reported that four robberies occurred in daylight in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill in August.
Police Captain Dales, who arrived late to the meeting, said he was asking the community to be “our eyes and ears.”
“If you see something suspicious call us,” Dales said. “Try to get a good description of the offenders and relay the information to the police department.”
Dales shared two recent success stories. He said one woman used the latest technology to catch a criminal. She saw a man dressed as a muslim woman enter the bank, and she took a picture of his license plate. Thanks to her, the police were able to apprehend the robber the same day.
“A lot of people like to catch the police in action on their cell phones,” Dales said. “Let’s catch the bad guys, too.”
The second success story was the recent robbery at Delphine Gallery, 8435 Germantown Ave.
“Thanks to the people in the community who reached out to us and gave a good description, we were able to apprehend three guys,” Dales said. “We can’t do it by ourselves. We need the public to get involved.”
Dales said several robberies targeted teenagers with cell phones.
“We cracked down on it,” Dales said. “Cell phones are a hot item.”
He encouraged parents to talk to their kids about being aware of their surroundings before talking on the cell phone.
Thefts from autos
Dales reminded attendees not to leave items in their car. Laptops are another hot item. The total thefts from vehicles in the 14th District was 60. Half of them were in PSA 4, said Dales. He added that property crimes were up 80 percent.
“The easiest one to prevent is theft from autos,” Dales said.
Dales recommended residents invest in an alarm system and security cameras.
“I am a victim of burglary myself,” he said. “It is not a nice feeling. I have eight cameras around my home. I do believe it prevents crime.”
Dales also encouraged residents to start a Town Watch group.
“Town Watch is very effective in preventing crime,” Dales said. “When you see a group of people walking down the street with their Town Watch gear on, people think twice about breaking into cars.”
Town Watch can cover one or ten blocks – there is no set requirement.” Dales said. “You can sit on your porch and monitor your block,” he added.
Anyone interested in Town Watch training can call Officer Johns at 215-685-2147. Training is scheduled to begin around Sept. 17.
“We’re out there trying hard,” Dales said, “but we can’t do it alone – we need people to get involved.”
This article has been updated. An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported the police officer as Lt. Anthony Buchanico.