by Pete Mazzaccaro
The morning after a tense meeting in East Mt. Airy to address rising gun violence, Captain Nicholas Smith of the Philadelphia Police Department’s 14th District paid a visit to the Chestnut Hill Starbucks for a meet and greet with the community.
The Aug. 8 event, billed as “Coffee with a Cop,” was part of a larger effort for Starbucks to get involved in the community. There was no set agenda, just a meet and greet.
“We’re looking to encourage open communication,” said Starbucks manager Jane Gagliardi.
Smith told the Local that Chestnut Hill was fortunately not experiencing a rising issue with gun violence, but there were issues to which he was paying special attention in the neighborhood.
The biggest issue in Chestnut Hill, he said, was an increase in thefts from vehicles. A look at the weekly crime report on page 3 of every issue of the Local, will likely contain multiple reports of such thefts. Thieves looting neighborhood cars are stealing everything from pocket change to laptops left in vehicles during the day and overnight.
One of the most significant contributing factors, Smith said, was that many people are leaving their car doors unlocked.
“My message for people is to lock their doors,” Smith said. “Look, I’m guilty of it too. We forget about it. Not too many guys are going to smash windows. They’re getting into cars that are already open.”
Smith said he is currently deploying officers in Chestnut Hill around the clock and that on Wednesday, Aug. 7, his officers arrested a suspect on drug charges but found two flashlights and a screwdriver in his possession, suggesting he might have been involved in car break ins.
Smith’s other concern for Chestnut Hill was an increase in bank robberies. Many residents of Chestnut Hill have likely noticed an increased presence of officers near the neighborhood’s banks, particularly in the 8600 block, where Smith said there have been five bank robberies in the last few months.
“One guy went into a bank with a gun while officers were checking in on a bank on the same block,” Smith said. “I really don’t want to have a shootout.”
Smith said he didn’t know what factors had created the sudden jump in bank robberies. He hopes the increased police presence will be a sufficient deterrent. He said in addition to increased presence, he added a bike officer to the neighborhood to help.
“Chestnut Hill is a good neighborhood, and we want to keep it that way,” he said.
Pete Mazzaccaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-248-8802.