Burglary uptick in 39th; new captain promotes prevention

Captain Verdell Johnson, Commanding Officer of the 39th Police District in Philadelphia, has reported an increase in burglaries in his district since assuming command in the beginning of 2012.

Headquartered on Hunting Park Avenue, the 39th District patrols an area of five square miles that serves more than 60,000 residents, according to Capt. Johnson and census data. 

Burglary statistics provided by the PPD indicate that, as of Jan. 12, the 39th District has experienced a total of 26 burglaries so far this year.

In 2011, there were 36 total burglaries for the entire month of January.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The 39th District is divided into three service sectors – Police Service Areas 1, 2, and 3.

PSA-2, which covers the Tioga/Nicetown area, has seen the highest increase in burglary rates, with 13 reported break-ins in 12 days.

This is an 18 percent upturn over PSA-2’s 11 total burglaries in January 2011.

“This is definitely a significant increase,” said Johnson.

PSA-1, the largest geographical division of the 39th, includes the entirety of East Falls and sections of Germantown and North Philadelphia.

For 2012, the same statistics indicate that PSA-1 has experienced 3 burglaries thus far, which compares to 9 for the month of January in 2011.

Preventing crimes of opportunity 

Captain Johnson, who formally assumed command of the 39th District in December, is unsure of the reasons for the growth in property crimes in his district.

He said that, given the sudden spike in burglaries, there was concern that a career criminal had been returned to the streets.

“We looked to see if somebody who was a career burglar just got out of jail,” said Johnson, who is currently in touch with the Probation and Parole Department to obtain further information about possible recidivists.

While these leads play out, Johnson is assigning more undercover burglary officers to PSA-2 and reaching out to the community with crime bulletins that advise both caution and proactive measures.

A burglary alert bulletin provided by the Captain advises residents to “make it difficult” for a would-be thief, as a majority of burglaries are crimes of opportunity, according to the alert.

The bulletin promotes taking common-sense steps to secure one’s residence and valuables – closing and locking all windows and doors, employing good lighting, and the employment of alarm systems.

“Hopefully [these things] will have an impact,” said Johnson of his two-tiered campaign of dedicated policing and public awareness.

He’s optimistic that that this approach will yield meaningful results in all sectors of the 39th.

“We’ve got a lot of things working to improve the quality of life [in crime-prone areas],” said Johnson, “and to help maintain the quality of life [in others].”

Robbery alert (39th District bulletin)

Auto theft alert (39th District bulletin)

Stay tuned to Newsworks for a profile of 39th District Commanding Officer Verdell Johnson later this week.

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