The months-long epidemic of car-tire slashing impacted dozens of Mayfair residents, but from the beginning David Toledo seemed different.
It was the way he led the rallying cry for neighbors to form a “block watch” but failed to show up for the required certification, community leaders say. It was how he bemoaned his victimization while glowing in the spotlight of news-media coverage.
Toledo spoke of vigilante justice with the passion of a Charles Bronson character and the austerity of a Poe novel.
Last Wednesday, Philadelphia police and the district attorney named Toledo as the man responsible for most of the destruction, charging him with vandalizing 55 cars in the neighborhood, including his own, then repeatedly presenting himself to police as an innocent victim.
“I keep remembering when he was saying, ‘I can’t wait ’til we catch him. We’re gonna hold him down and break all his fingers,’” said Karen Woldsmit, recalling how Toledo, her next-door neighbor, would speak of the tire slasher in the third person.
“He said we’d tie him up, beat him up and break his fingers,” neighbor Ryan McConnell said, quoting Toledo’s rapid-fire threats.
Toledo, 44, of the 4000 block of Aldine St., remains in prison in lieu of $270,000 bail while awaiting a May 3 arraignment on two felony counts of criminal mischief, 47 misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief, seven counts of possessing an instrument of crime and five counts of filing false reports.
Police arrested Toledo at his home at about 3 p.m. last Wednesday, culminating three months of surveillance and investigation that ate up hundreds of police man-hours.
“I want to thank the community for their patience as detectives and the 15th district investigated this,” said Deputy Commissioner Thomas Wright.
Authorities refused to detail specific evidence against Toledo, how they believe he operated and his motive.
Police sources confirmed to the Northeast Times that Toledo was a suspect early on in the probe. Yet it took investigators time to collect enough evidence to pin a pattern of criminal behavior on him and build a stronger case.
“This is a long time coming together, but with hard work we got it solved,” said Capt. Jack McGinnis of Northeast Detectives.
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The rash of tire-slashing incidents began in January and continued at least through April 16, authorities have said.
The news media began reporting heavily about it in mid-February, after at least 25 cars were targeted in two episodes within a week. The damage occurred on Toledo’s block and the 4000 block of Teesdale St.
On Feb. 20, Capt. Frank Bachmayer, commander of the 15th district, called an emergency meeting of neighbors at the police station to discuss prevention strategies. Toledo was in attendance.
After the session, Bachmayer vowed 24-hour coverage of the affected blocks. Yet the incidents persisted and often occurred during shift changes or amid other brief windows when police were not monitoring the block.
Logic told authorities that whoever was doing it was probably close to the block and aware of police tactics.
“The level of betrayal here is very disturbing,” said Milt Martelack, president of the Mayfair Town Watch. “He betrayed the Town Watch, the police department, the community.”
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Martelack’s group assisted the Tacony-Holmesburg Town Watch in monitoring the area during the crisis. Mayfair covers the territory west of Frankford Avenue. Tacony-Holmesburg covers east of Frankford Avenue, including the most-affected blocks.
Although identified as a Town Watch or Block Watch member in many news reports, Toledo was neither.
Town Watch members patrol communities, while Block Watch members act from their own homes looking out for suspicious activity.
“He made no effort to become a Town Watch member. He investigated the process and never followed through,” Martelack said. “He was not even a certified member of Block Watch.”
Toledo, described by neighbors as an out-of-work supermarket butcher, often told them he walked the streets at night looking for the mysterious tire slasher.
“He was a self-proclaimed Town Watch member, a self-proclaimed Block Watch member,” Martelack said. “He claimed he patrolled the streets. That’s in question.”
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Joe Nicoletti, president of the Tacony-Holmesburg Town Watch, said that his group plans to hold a May 10 meeting at Tacony Baptist Church, Hegerman and Disston streets, to recruit more members and hear about neighborhood crime trends.
Last Wednesday night, the spectacle on Toledo’s block featured at least a half-dozen TV news crews, dozens of neighbors chatting about Toledo’s arrest, and police guarding against disturbances.
At one point, a senior woman exited Toledo’s house, only for a pack of TV-camera operators to storm her porch. The woman rushed back inside for a moment, then emerged with a small dog on a leash, hurrying down the block as TV reporters shoved microphones in her face.
A short time later, a woman believed to have been Toledo’s wife opened the door and invited one reporter inside for an interview, leaving the others outside grumbling.
Yvonne Toledo reportedly told CBS3 that her husband is innocent.
“Right, wrong or indifferent, I stand beside my husband, and in my heart I don’t believe he did it,” she said. “I just think this is an episode of circumstances.”
The couple moved into the Aldine Street house within the last year, neighbors said.
“He was the new guy on the block. Nothing like this ever happened before. Whatever he was trying to be, it backfired on him,” said neighbor Mike Wagner.
McGinnis, the detective captain, said that Toledo has a history of similar behavior, but refused to detail prior incidents involving the suspect. Toledo’s criminal record shows a 2000 conviction for driving while under the influence and a 2005 arrest for harassment and criminal mischief that was later dismissed.
Bachmayer hopes things stay quiet on Aldine Street and surrounding blocks now that the alleged tire slasher is behind bars, and that victims resist the temptation to retaliate.
“Let the justice system handle Mister Toledo,” Bachmayer said. ••EndFragment