Although many people recognize the holidays as a time of goodwill and giving, some see it only as a time of taking.
According to 26th District Police Officer James Coughlin, burglaries and theft typically increase during the season as homes fill with newly purchased goods intended as gifts.
The 26th Police District includes parts of Northern Liberties, Fishtown, Olde Richmond and East Kensington. The two biggest problems in the district, Coughlin said, are vehicle break-ins and home burglaries.
Given that not-so-cheerful fact, the 26th recognized December as the perfect time to implement a new crime prevention initiative — Operation ID.
Operation ID is a citywide property identification program that aims to assist police in the recovery of stolen items. Each police district in the city will implement the program — or already has — but the 26th will host an open house Dec. 17 to inform residents of the program and other safety and crime-prevention initiatives.
“Nobody saves their [purchased merchandise’s] serial numbers anymore,” Coughlin said. “When things get stolen, there’s no real identifier.”
In turn, then, Operation ID provides citizens with 10 item stickers to place on valuables — TVs, computers, iPods, cameras and game systems — as well as two window stickers to place on the front and back windows of their homes.
Those stickers will alert would-be burglars that the property participates in the program.
The stickers will have a registrant’s unique identification number on them, allowing police to track a stolen item back to its owner. If a thief removes the sticker, a permanent “VOID” mark is left behind, which indicates the item is stolen.
Coughlin said he would be visiting pawn shops and other second-hand and resale shops around the district to advise merchants to contact police if items marked with stickers come into their shops.
“Most of the people doing burglaries are people with addiction problems. They’re not taking it for themselves,” Coughlin said. “They’re going to sell it and get high.”
Coughlin said the initiative isn’t a direct response to increased burglaries in the 26th, but something the city has been working on for a while.
“This is something we thought was a good idea,” he said.
Other existing programs the district will discuss on Dec. 17 are S.A.V.E. and B.O.N.D.
S.A.V.E., the Stolen Auto Verification Effort, provides car owners with a sticker for the automobile that alerts police to pull the car over if it’s seen on the road between midnight and 6 a.m., if its owner doesn’t typically drive between those hours.
B.O.N.D., the Business Owner Notification Detail, is intended for business owners to register their personal contact information with the department. That way, if there is a burglary at an owner’s business, police can quickly get in direct contact with the individual. Even if the owner has an alarm system, Coughlin said, police can sometimes find it difficult to contact an owner. Under B.O.N.D., he said, getting in touch would be much easier.
Operation ID stickers already are available for anyone wishing to register with the program.
Neighbors can visit the 26th between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to register or learn more at the Dec. 17 meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. at district headquarters, E. Girard and Montgomery avenues. Police officers Leslie Pomales and Anna Mae Law are also running the Operation ID program at the district. Coughlin listed some other tips to prevent burglaries and theft, including: always lock your doors; don’t place merchandise boxes (TVs, gaming systems) on the sidewalk in plain sight for trash collection — crush the boxes and put them in trash bags; don’t leave GPS systems or laptops in sight in your car, and even wipe away the suction cup marks from GPS systems on the interior windshield.
“Stay friendly with your neighbors best you can,” Coughlin said. “Look out for each other.”
Contact the 26th District Crime Prevention Team at 215-686-3260 for more information, or visit http://www.phillypolice.com/districts/26th.
Star Managing Editor Mikala Jamison can be reached at 215-354-3113 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.