Capt. John Fleming urged residents to be proactive by installing surveillance cameras and alarms to prevent them from being burglarized. “Burglars will often knock on a resident’s door and ask for some random person,” Fleming said. (Photo by Sue Ann Rybak)

by Sue Ann Rybak

Capt. John Fleming asked residents to lock up and to report any suspicious behavior at last night’s Police Sector Area Meeting held at the Lutheran Seminary, 7301 Germantown Ave. He said often burglars gain assess to property through an open garage door or window. Fleming added that in two recent burglaries in this area, the owners left the door open or unlocked. (According to a 14th district crime bulletin in two out of ten burglaries thieves gain access through an open door or window.)

Fleming urged residents to be proactive by installing surveillance cameras and burglary alarms, getting to know their immediate neighbors and having their property assessed by Crime Prevention Officer Lesinette Ortiz.

Also in attendance were Lt. Michael Whaley, Officer Thomas Seymour and Officer Kimberly Harris, as well as two plains clothes police officers assigned to Chestnut Hill and sections of Mt. Airy.

About 25 residents attended the meeting to voice their concerns about recent burglaries in the area.

While Fleming informed residents that burglaries in Chestnut Hill were down, he added that residents need to take precautions.

Whaley who conducted the meeting said burglars are looking for a “quick score.” He encouraged residents to sign up for some of the crime prevention programs available such as Operation ID, a voluntary registration system where residents can log high-end items serial numbers with police. So not only will it provide the police with evidence in court, but the recovered items can be returned to their owner. He said participants are provided with a window sticker to display that lets criminals know owners items are labeled.

“It can act as a deterrent,” Whaley said.

Whaley also urged homeowners and business owners to register their surveillance cameras throught the Philadelphia Police SafeCam program.

“We need you to be our eyes and ears,” Whaley said.

“One of the biggest challenges of the 14th district is that you have people living in poverty and people living in million dollar homes,” Fleming said.

He said the 14th district is a diverse district and the 3rd largest district in the city.

The 14th district is divided into four police sector areas:

PSA #1, whose boundaries are Cheltenham to Chew avenues between Gorgas Lane and Vernon Road to Wister Street/Chew Avenue.

PSA #2, whose boundaries are Chew to Germantown avenues, from Gorgas Lane to Wister and Logan streets.

PSA #3, whose boundaries are the area from Germantown Avenue to the Wissahickon Valley, between St. Georges Lane and Allens Lane in the north to Queen Lane in the south.

PSA #4, whose boundaries are Stenton and Cheltenham avenues to the Wissahickon Valley, from Northwestern Avenue on the north to St. Georges Lane, Allens Lane, Gorgas Lane and Vernon Road in the south.

“It [the 14th district] is the largest residential and business district,” Fleming said.

Criminals use distraction techniques

“Burglars will often knock on a resident’s door and ask for some random person,” Fleming said.

He said often theives will “scope out” a owner’s home or distract you while their partner steals something else.

Fleming said often after a burglary neighbors will report that they saw or heard something suspicious but didn’t call 911.

“Why not call 911,” Fleming said. “What I want to get back to the Chestnut Hill area and Mt. Airy area is please call 911. No one goes door to door anymore for the most part, with the internet it’s just not economical.”

Recently, a victim of an earlier burglary called 911 to report teenagers knocking on doors asking for money. It turned out that they were with PennEnvironment.

“I wish the person who called 911 was here,” Fleming said. “I would thank her for calling 911. “Let us be the bad guy. And if everything is okay we’ll get on the radio and let our guys know.”

Officer Seymour, who is assigned to Chestnut Hill, said he or his partner would follow up to let the resident know what the outcome was.

“We will come back to your house or call you on the phone to let you know we responded to the call,” Seymour said.

Update on recent crimes in Chestnut Hill

Several attendees voiced concerns about two taser robberies that occurred earlier in the year. In both robberies victims were beaten and tasered on Highland Avenue in Chestnut Hill. Fleming said while the police have a lot of good leds and information regarding the robberies, he could not comment because it was an ongoing investigation.

Residents also voiced their concern over the growing number of cell phone robberies not only in Chestnut Hill but the entire city of Philadelphia.

“Unfortunately, cell phone thefts are a crime of opportunity,” Fleming said.

He added that the police have been successful in tracking phones and making arrests by using Find my Phone App. A free app that allows police to track your phone if it is stolen. He urged residents to download some type of phone tracking app on their iPhone or Android phone.

Fleming said unfortunately, thanks to companies like EcoATM, thieves can drop off cell phones and other electronics in a kiosk and receive cash instantly.

“Unlike pawn shops, these companies don’t have to wait a certain number of days before they resell items.”

“It’s an easy way for criminals to get cold, hard cash,” Fleming said.

The next Police Sector Area Meeting for Chestnut Hill will be held on June 26 at 7 p.m. at the Roger Walton Association located at 610 E. Mt. Airy Avenue. For more information call the 14th Police district at 215-686-3140.