Burglary trends in the Northeast

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Burglaries have recently been a hot topic for residents in the Northeast. But what exactly constitutes a burglary? Many confuse the term with theft or robbery.

Burglaries fall under an entirely different category. The term is defined as the act of entering a building with the intent to commit a crime without a weapon.

Last year, there were 2,432 burglaries that took place in the Northeast. The 2nd, 7th, 8th and 15th Police Districts have been making appearances at local civic group meetings to address residents’ concerns.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey was present at the Lawncrest Community Association’s meeting last week, where burglaries was just one of many topics he discussed with residents.

“We’re [the City of Philadelphia] up in burglaries.” he said “A lot of it is residential. There’s some commercial burglaries, so some areas are seeing an upward trend in that. Burglary across the country is not an easy crime to solve. Usually there are no witnesses. Usually there is very little, if any forensic evidence that you can gather at the scene.”

The Philadelphia Police Department’s new interactive Crime Mapping application was created as part of its Incident Transmittal System and gives the public free access to criminal data that is recorded in their neighborhoods.

While overall theft has become an upward trend in Philadelphia, the Northeast’s most recent burglary crime maps are displaying conflicting statistics.

People using this application must keep in mind that these maps do contain incidents that are originally reported to the police and are subject to change upon investigation. The information one can find, however, will still shed some light on the state of Philadelphia’s communities when it comes to criminal activity. The Philadelphia Police Department notes the data collected have a 96 percent to 98 percent geocoding accuracy.

Geocoding refers to relating sets of information to geographic coordinates you would find on a map. Individuals logging on to the site will be faced with three selections including a location (this can be the name of a building, an intersection or a specific address), a crime category and a date range to choose from. Philadelphia residents can create their own crime maps here.

According to the application, both burglaries and attempted burglaries in the Northeast are down from last month. This past May, a total of 194 burglaries were reported in the four Northeast Police Districts. The 15th District received the most, with 80 burglaries reported, while the 7th District received the least with only 10. Of the 194 occurrences, nearly three-quarters of them took place in private residences and were executed by force.

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With the month of June winding down, burglary numbers are not as high as some residents may think. From June 1 to June 23, Northeast Philadelphia’s crime mapping system displayed 165 burglaries and attempted burglaries within the four police districts — nearly 30 less than last month’s numbers. The 2nd District currently has 42 reported burglaries for June, while in May, numbers topped out at 70. Overall numbers may be lower so far, but the burglaries that are being reported are regularly happening in private residences and are committed forcefully.

While data for the entire month are yet to be recorded, it is apparent that while this type of criminal activity may not have increased  in June, it remains consistent.

On June 12, a string of burglaries rippled through several small businesses along Roosevelt Boulevard. The recently opened Fat Jack’s BBQ was one of the establishments that fell victim. Owner and CEO Glenn Gross said whether it’s a home or a business, it can happen to anyone.

“You don’t think it’s going to happen to you. You really don’t. And when it does happen you think, ‘Wow.’”

Owner of Angela’s Pizza Joe Finazzo was another victim of the burglary string and said this is the second time his business has suffered a break-in in the past two years.

“All of these smaller places like us. They keep their drawers in there at night time, or keep a couple dollars in there,” he said. “So if you hit 10 places at $100 a piece, it’s going to be a 1,000 bucks.”

Lt. Tom Tomlin told attendees at last week’s Lawncrest Community Association meeting that if they are ever burglarized, it is important to not touch anything.

“Don’t clean your house. Wait for the police to arrive,” he said. “We have orders that we fingerprint for all burglary scenes.”

From January to April, the Philadelphia Police Department’s Research and Planning Unit documented 912 burglaries in the Northeast. Since this only covers a quarter of the year, where these trends will go remains unknown.

“It’s a serial crime,” Ramsey said. “A person doesn’t commit one burglary and retire. They just keep doing it over and over again. So getting them is very important. But there is an upward trend in that.”

Burglaries in the four districts may be on the current decline, but if this year’s current overall trends continue to rise, New Years’ 2012 may leave residents with statistics that are higher than they’d like to see.

Gina Benigno and Danny Donnelly are students reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.

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