The 7th Police District Advisory Council recently recognized four members of the district as Officers of the Month for December or January.
Officers Paul Hartigan and Ernest Green won December honors after they captured a suspect who admitted to committing three armed robberies of area businesses, police said.
At 8:30 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, an unknown man entered the Rite Aid Pharmacy on the 7900 block of Castor Ave., told a cashier that he had a gun and demanded money. With cash in hand, he ran from the store toward Ripley Street, after which witnesses saw a red pickup truck leaving that block.
One day earlier, a man fitting the same description committed similar robberies of the Hollywood Tans on the 2500 block of Welsh Road and the Exxon Mini Mart on the 9900 block of Bustleton Ave.
A few hours after the Rite Aid robbery, a man fitting the same description entered another Hollywood Tans on the 2100 block of Cottman Ave. The manager recognized him as a suspect in the earlier Welsh Road heist. When the man exited the store, the manager noted the description of his vehicle, a red Ford pickup truck, and took down the license plate number. The manager then called police.
Officers traced the plate to one residence, then learned that the suspect was staying at a residence on the 8800 block of Fairfield St. Police surveyed the area and spotted the red truck on a nearby street. A short time later, police spotted the suspect on the street and attempted to stop him. When he ran, Hartigan and Green caught him in a driveway behind his residence.
The suspect later admitted to the three robberies, police said.
Officers John Higgins and Bill Killian earned the monthly honors for January after they captured an alleged serial burglar.
On Jan. 22, Killian and Higgins were patrolling undercover in civilian clothes in the area of 700 Welsh Road when they saw a man walking from house to house trying to open the doors at each. At one house, a resident came to the door and spoke to the suspect.
After the suspect left that house, the officers asked the resident if he knew the suspect and was told he did not.
A short time later, the officers spotted the same suspect on the 9000 block of Verree Road and stopped him for questioning. The officers determined that the man had an outstanding arrest warrant in Norristown for narcotics violations. The officers used an online database to further investigate the man and learned he had been linked through a pawn shop to a ring that had been reported stolen in a burglary. The officers transferred the suspect to the custody of Montgomery County authorities. One day later, Killian and Higgins spotted the same man on the 600 block of Welsh Road. By that time, detectives had confirmed that the man had been linked to the stolen ring, so Killian and Higgins arrested him.
During a search, the officers allegedly found other stolen items in the man’s backpack. Ultimately, the man was charged with committing five burglaries in the area.
The commander of the 7th district, Capt. Joseph Zaffino, noted that the arrest was particularly impressive because the officers acted purely on their own initiative without the need for 911 calls or other public notification. Zaffino referred to the arrest as “an outstanding ‘sight’ job,” meaning that the officers saw something suspicious while on patrol and were able to resolve five open burglary investigations.
Zaffino further reported during January’s PDAC meeting that no murder cases occurred in the district in 2012, despite a citywide murder total of more than 300. Property crime in the district increased slightly for the year, however. Zaffino invited all citizens to participate in the police department’s Operation ID program. They will be given registration stickers to affix to valuable possessions, such as cell phones, computers and other tech devices. If items are stolen, the stickers will help police identify the proper owner of the items. If the stickers are removed, markings will remain on the items indicating that they may have been stolen. Also, area pawn shops have been instructed not to purchase items affixed with stickers. ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org