On Wednesday night, Lt. Dennis Rosenbaum of the city’s 14th Police District introduced both himself and his strategy for a swath of the Northwest Philadelphia district.
A day after Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey espoused his belief in the powers of Police Service Areas, Rosenbaum briefed a handful of residents inside the Germantown Jewish Center on November crime statistics in PSA-3, which includes West Mt. Airy and sections of Germantown.
Robberies were limited to a handful, and largely concentrated along the Germantown Avenue corridor. Of the half dozen aggravated assaults that occurred, a majority were domestic in nature, with three occurring between members of one household.
Burglaries remain high in PSA-3, with almost a dozen in 27 days.
Rosenbaum tempered this crime stat with those he saw in his previous assignment in Northeast Detectives, which averaged almost 11 burglaries a day. While higher than desirable in his beat, he said that they will probably never go away entirely, with many burglaries statistically being committed by family members.
However, he said that in his previous capacity he was able to make a sizable dent in the number of break-ins by utilizing a combination of dedicated personnel and smart policing.
‘Two of the hardest crimes to solve’
One tactic used was to flyer neighborhoods after a burglary, which Rosenbaum said both notified residents of the incident and and provided them with an opportunity to offer additional information. It also helped strengthen the bond between police and community, he said.
Rosenbaum related that sometimes attempted break-ins aren’t reported by residents, which limits the ability of police to construct patterns and identify potential suspects.
For residents, Rosenbaum said he strongly recommends the acquisition of surveillance cameras, which he estimated would cost about $600 for fix or six cameras. He said he solved a number of burglaries using video imagery in conjunction with social media. A suspect’s name was often provided within a days, he said.
More to the point, he said, “If you solve one, it leads to others.”
The focus on break-ins was an important point for residents in attendance.
“We don’t have a lot of different crimes here,” said Marilyn Cohen, executive director of West Mt. Airy Neighbors. “Mostly, our problem is burglaries.”
Cohen added that theft from vehicles also vexes residents, to which Rosenbaum responded, “They’re two of the hardest crimes to solve.”
To keep abreast of criminal activity, Rosenbaum will be reaching out to the community through a variety of means.
He hopes to implement his neighborhood flyer program that achieved successful results in Northeast Philadelphia. In addition, he plans to set up an email chain for residents and businesses to spread word about police-related activity in their area.
Lastly, he seeks to team with local media outlets to keep the public informed.
“Communication is huge,” he said, noting that he stayed in constant contact with residents in his former assignment via his Blackberry.
Rosenbaum also said he will be training his officers to use the department’s new and state-of-the-art GIS crime tracking software, and will seek to qualify even more officers for fingerprinting duty at crime scenes.
Community Relations Officer Synell Hall, who was recently appointed to the role, said at the meeting that she will continue with community notifications and that Crime Prevention Officer Lesinette Ortiz will continue to conduct burglary prevention assessments for residents and businesses.
Rosenbaum said he is also going to be spending time in the next few weeks training and teaching officers to be proactive about crime prevention.
“They know how to fight crime,” he observed. “If we teach them how to look for patterns, they can go out there and proactively try to stop it.”
“I try to think outside the box,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of things I want to put into play.”