Northeast Times

PGW imposters target Bustleton residents

Great­er Bustleton Civic League mem­bers got up­dates on neigh­bor­hood zon­ing is­sues and re­cre­ation cen­ter renov­a­tions, heard about util­ity work­er im­post­ors try­ing to get in­to homes and learned a once leg­al left turn off of Grant Av­en­ue is now il­leg­al.

Turn­ing in­to the Wawa off of Grant’s west­bound lanes right be­fore Krewstown Road will get drivers tick­eted, the league’s pres­id­ent, Jack O’Hara, said. There are signs warn­ing mo­tor­ists that a left be­fore Krewstown is il­leg­al, and po­lice are writ­ing plenty of tick­ets to those who dis­reg­ard those signs.

O’Hara told mem­bers that men im­per­son­at­ing Phil­adelphia Gas Works em­ploy­ees are try­ing to get in­to Bustleton homes. He said an eld­erly wo­man told him two guys in PGW uni­forms showed her ID badges, but when they got in­to her home, they ter­ror­ized her and ran­sacked the place.

A res­id­ent who lives off of More­field and Ver­ree told mem­bers a man who said he was a PGW em­ploy­ee came up to her as she was out­side her home wa­ter­ing her plants. She said she had seen the man walk­ing up and down her street be­fore he had ap­proached her.

She said the man at first asked to see her hus­band and then told her there was a gas leak nearby that was af­fect­ing the wa­ter sup­ply. He showed her an ID, she said, but ad­ded, “I wasn’t buy­ing it.”

But that didn’t stop the man from per­sist­ing, giv­ing the wo­man reas­on after phony reas­on she should let him in­side. “‘Your wa­ter is pois­on,’” she said the man told her and he in­sisted he wanted to get in her house. She con­tin­ued to re­fuse, and even­tu­ally the man went away.

The story should be a fa­mil­i­ar one to North­east Times read­ers. The news­pa­per fre­quently has pub­lished re­ports of men im­per­son­at­ing util­ity work­ers who try to con­vince people, usu­ally eld­erly people, that they must be al­lowed in their homes to check pipes for gas or wa­ter leaks. Their in­tent al­ways is to check out what they can swipe, not fix.

O’Hara told mem­bers they are not un­der any ob­lig­a­tion to al­low any­one in­to their homes — even if they really are util­ity work­ers. One mem­ber ad­vised oth­ers that any PGW em­ploy­ee in­vest­ig­at­ing a gas leak routinely would be ac­com­pan­ied by fire­fight­ers.

Capt. Frank Bach­may­er, the 7th Po­lice Dis­trict’s new com­mand­er, also said no one is re­quired to let any­one in their homes. He told mem­bers not to in­vest­ig­ate these situ­ations on their own.

“Just dial 911,” he said. “People think there is no reas­on to call 911 … but, if you think something is wrong, give us a call.”

The cap­tain also said many res­id­ents are get­ting sur­veil­lance cam­er­as for their homes’ se­cur­ity, and those sys­tems are help­ful to po­lice.

Speak­ing of area crimes, Bach­may­er said neigh­bor­hood vi­ol­ence that has made news re­ports has not been ran­dom, but in­stead in­volved “tar­geted in­di­vidu­als.”

For ex­ample, the men who re­cently were robbed out­side a Gei­ger Road gun range were tar­gets, he said. One of those men was shot. Two sus­pects have been charged in that crime.

Bach­may­er also ad­vised any­one who is burg­lar­ized not to clean up be­fore po­lice ar­rive to in­vest­ig­ate.

One way po­lice catch burg­lars is luck, he said, and the oth­er way is through fin­ger­prints. Burg­lars don’t stop after hit­ting one house, the cap­tain said. A burg­lar will hit sev­er­al homes in a row and might leave be­hind his prints. Clean­ing up be­fore po­lice of­ficers ar­rive can hamper their abil­ity to lift a burg­lar’s prints.

“Don’t clean up,” the cap­tain said.

ZON­ING UP­DATES

Joe Guerra, the league’s at­tor­ney, said he will rep­res­ent the neigh­bor­hood free of charge in its fight to keep a day care cen­ter out of 811 Char­ette. Group Day­care Cen­ter has re­sub­mit­ted its ap­plic­a­tion to the Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment, ask­ing for a spe­cial ex­cep­tion to al­low op­er­a­tions in the res­id­en­tial area. League mem­bers had op­posed the ini­tial ap­plic­a­tion for a vari­ance.

By ask­ing for an ex­cep­tion in­stead of a zon­ing vari­ance, the ap­plic­ant shifts the bur­den to op­pon­ents, who must now show the use would be a det­ri­ment to the neigh­bor­hood, Guerra said.

“This is not the par­tic­u­lar use we want,” the at­tor­ney said. “We will put up a fight.”

He said neigh­bor­hood traffic already is con­ges­ted and that there is a SEPTA bus line that runs by the prop­erty. Guerra ad­ded that there is a re­gistered sex of­fend­er in the neigh­bor­hood.

The league had re­tained an­oth­er at­tor­ney to fight an­oth­er zon­ing battle.

The own­er of 9997 Hal­de­man Ave., who is op­er­at­ing a dent­al im­plant man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness in a res­id­en­tially zoned prop­erty, will have a zon­ing board hear­ing at 2 p.m. on Ju­ly 23, mem­bers were told.

“We want a large turnout at that meet­ing,” Guerra said.

There’s some his­tory to the league’s op­pos­i­tion.

In late 2012, mem­bers over­whelm­ingly re­fused to sup­port a vari­ance that would per­mit the busi­ness to op­er­ate leg­ally in the house, but the zon­ing board gave the own­er a three-year tem­por­ary vari­ance to con­tin­ue. City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill (R-10th dist.) at the time urged the league to fight the zon­ers’ de­cision. The or­gan­iz­a­tion did, tak­ing the case to Com­mon Pleas Court, where a judge ruled that the ap­plic­ant did not prove hard­ship — that the only use for the house was for his busi­ness. The zon­ing board now has the case again and must now de­cide if that hard­ship ex­ists. The hear­ing has been con­tin­ued more than once. Mean­while, the ap­plic­ant may leg­ally op­er­ate his busi­ness on the prop­erty. 

It seems that some­times a zon­ing win doesn’t feel like a vic­tory.

Jack Bon­ner, the league’s re­cord­ing sec­ret­ary, said the zon­ers last year had not only re­fused to leg­al­ize a struc­ture on a neigh­bor­hood prop­erty, but had ordered it torn down. It’s still stand­ing, he said.

“The weak link is en­force­ment,” O’Hara said.

O’Neill said res­id­ents have to look out for their neigh­bor­hoods.

“Eyes and ears are not just about crime,” he said, “It’s about qual­ity-of-life is­sues. It all adds up, and, be­lieve me, it can really change a neigh­bor­hood.”

The coun­cil­man said ren­ov-a-tions of the play area at Lack-man Play-ground in Bustleton had been sched-uled to be com-pleted by early June, but the harsh winter put the job be­hind sched­ule. He said con­struc­tion had to stop so the play­ground could be used for day camps dur­ing the sum­mer school va­ca­tion.

Great­er Bustleton Civic League mem­bers will not meet dur­ing Ju­ly and Au­gust. The league’s next ses­sion will be at 7 p.m. on Wed­nes­day, Sept. 17, in the Amer­ic­an Her­it­age Fed­er­al Cred­it Uni­on’s Car­riage House, Red Li­on Road and Jam­is­on. League meet­ings gen­er­ally are con­duc­ted on a month’s fourth Wed­nes­day, but the Septem­ber ses­sion was sched­uled on the third Wed­nes­day be­cause Rosh Hasha­nah falls on Sept. 24. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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