A lot happened in the 7th Police District over the summer, according to Capt. Joseph Zaffino. Unfortunately, burglaries have probably been the most frequent occurrence.
Like other police districts in the Northeast and throughout Philadelphia, the 7th has seen a big increase in the volume of burglaries, Zaffino said during the 7th Police District Advisory Council’s September meeting. Police have yet to get a firm grip on the problem, despite trying various investigative strategies and public outreach efforts.
Zaffino’s latest idea was to issue a “reverse 911” call to 7th district residents on Sept. 14. At about 6 p.m. that day, many residents of the district were to receive a recorded message from the captain via telephone warning them of the persistent burglary problem and advising them of preventative measures.
According to the captain, many reported crimes could have been prevented had residents not made it easy for burglars by leaving their doors or windows open or unlocked.
Aside from keeping the house locked and secure, residents might also invest in motion-sensing outdoor lights or alarm systems to scare off potential burglars. Another good tip, Zaffino said, is to avoid erecting tall privacy fences or shrubs around the yard. Burglars like to target homes that provide them with easy cover for their activities.
In addition to the telephone message, Zaffino on Sept. 14 issued a text message warning to those who have signed up for the ReadyNotifyPA system.
“Be advised that there has been a spike in burglaries within the boundaries of Grant Avenue to Rhawn Street and Roosevelt Boulevard to Krewstown Road,” the message stated. “We are asking that all residents be diligent in keeping a watchful eye in their neighborhoods. … Report any suspicious activity to 911 immediately.” The message further stated that witnesses should not directly engage suspects in any way.
During the PDAC meeting, Zaffino said that police believe three suspects are involved in the latest rash of home break-ins. They have been seen traveling or sitting inside an older bronze Nissan Altima, possibly a 1999 model year. The vehicle is in good condition despite its age and does not have any post-market customization. It may have been stolen, Zaffino said.
Typically one male will wait inside the car or circle the neighborhood as the other two will approach targeted homes on foot, before returning to the vehicle to make a getaway.
In addition to the burglary problem, the district has seen an increase in the volume of thefts from autos, particularly in Fox Chase north of Rhawn Street and east of Pine Road, Zaffino said. Motorists are advised to remove all possessions from unattended vehicles and to lock all doors.
Two 7th district officers were honored at the PDAC meeting as Officers of the Month. Robert Alford earned the award for June for apprehending a burglary suspect on the 2300 block of Stanwood St.
On June 3, Alford went to the block in response to a report of a burglary in progress. Officers at the scene told Alford that the suspect was still inside the house and provided him with a description.
A short time later, the suspect tried to flee through the front door, but Alford blocked the suspect and ordered him to the ground. Alford recovered $588 cash and a ring from the suspect, along with the key to a Mercedes-Benz that was parked nearby.
Other officers arrested a second suspect who also had been inside the house. According to Zaffino, the first suspect was linked to a series of break-ins, convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
The award for July went to Officer Nigel Evans, who on July 16 arrested a burglary and assault suspect inside a victim’s home on the 1700 block of Rachael St.
When Evans arrived at the scene of the disturbance, a man told the officer that he was sleeping in his bedroom when he woke up to someone punching him repeatedly in the face. The victim was unable to defend himself or fight back. During the assault, the suspect also threw several household items at the resident, causing bruises to his face and cuts to his mouth.
Evans arrested the suspect at the scene. ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org