Armed robbers hit East Falls for seventh time in two months

 Lt. Edward Bier of the 39th Police District,   (Matthew Grady for NewsWorks)

Lt. Edward Bier of the 39th Police District, (Matthew Grady for NewsWorks)

A pair of armed criminals linked to several robberies in East Falls have struck again.

According to police reports, the bandits added two additional robberies to their tally, bringing the total to seven since the pattern began in April. Both of the most recent episodes occurred on Saturday, May 25 outside of the handful of blocks where their previous crimes took place.

At 8:20 p.m., a 28 year-old male was walking westbound on the 3000 block of Midvale Ave. when he was approached from behind. Reaching for the victim’s shoulder, the suspects demanded and received the man’s cell phone at gunpoint. The suspects then fled northbound on The Oak Road.

Moments later, at 8:23 p.m. two women were robbed of their purses on the 300 block of W. Chelten Ave. After grabbing the first victim, one suspect pointed his gun at the other victim and demanded her bag. Afterwards, the suspects fled in a dark-colored sedan.

On Thursday night, Lt. Edward Bier of the 39th Police District told residents that the suspects remain at large, and that the investigation is still active.

A string of crimes

The first of the armed robberies occurred on April 22. Police records indicate that at 5:15 p.m., a man armed with a black handgun robbed a victim of her cell phone on the 3400 block of Tilden St.

On Apr. 26, a Philadelphia University student was walking westbound at 9:50 p.m. on the 3800 block of Midvale Ave. when he was approached from behind by two males. Brandishing a semi-automatic handgun, the suspects took a wallet, a cell phone, and a MacBook laptop.

On May 6 at 8:10 p.m., a male complainant was on the 3300 block of Bowman St. when he was approached by a suspect who pointed a black handgun at him and said “Give it to me,” in reference to the complainant cell phone, according to the police report.

On May 11 at approximately 11 p.m., two robberies took place within minutes of each other. In the first, a complainant was robbed on the 3200 block of Cresson St. The complainant was stopped by two suspects who took the complainant’s cell phone at gunpoint. After the robbery, police at the scene said that one of the suspects reportedly shot a firearm into the air.

The suspects were last seen fleeing toward Conrad Street via Sunnyside Avenue. Moments later, a second robbery took place at the intersection of Vaux St. and Midvale Ave., where a 29 year-old male was robbed of his iPhone, wallet, and $40 cash at gunpoint.

In each instance, the suspects are described as being two black males in their early twenties, both of average height and typically wearing a hoody of varying color.

Since the pattern began, police officers have been concentrated in East Falls, bolstering their typical deployment with additional bicycle and vehicle patrols. Reiterating earlier statements made at a community meeting the prior month, Bier said that a neighborhood rumor of a robbery of a stroller-pushing woman was untrue.

Less than 3 incidents of crime per day

Despite this pattern, crime in the section of the 39th District that includes East Falls, Allegheny Ave., and Southwest Germantown remains relatively neutral. 

A total of 92 violent and major property crimes were recorded in May, up four from April, and averaging 2.9 per day. Bier noted that this is the fifth consecutive month where there were fewer than three crimes per day in Police Service Area One.

Slight rises were noted in three categories from April to May: 13 robberies, up from seven in April; 14 residential burglaries, a rise of one; 27 theft from autos, up from 20.

Rapes remained consistent at one per month, as did aggravated assaults without guns, which clocked in at six. Aggravated assault using a firearm actually decreased, from four in April to two in May.

No commercial burglaries were reported, down one from the prior month.

Asked by a resident the possible reasons for the stable crime stats, Bier reported that local police officers have been upping their on-site investigations of pedestrians and vehicles, noting that over 1,000 such incidents have been recorded in May.

While upbeat that offenses remain at their lowest levels since the prior year, Bier said he remains wary about the potential of the summer months and the typical bumps in crime that they bring.

“The next four months are going to tell the story of how bad it’s going to be,” said Bier.

His advice? “Stay cool.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal