Dozens of thefts, previous abduction occurred at Chestnut St. crime scene

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 The parking garage at 8th and Chestnut streets where the abduction occurred has few security cameras inside. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The parking garage at 8th and Chestnut streets where the abduction occurred has few security cameras inside. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

While detectives continue to search for the men who abducted a jewelry store worker from a Center City Philadelphia parking garage in early April, police records show that a number of previous incidents in the structure might have indicated the need for greater security.

 

Since 2005, at least 40 thefts took place in the facility in the 700 block of Chestnut Street. Ten of occurred in 2013 alone, and an abduction took place in the garage in March of 2012.

Cameras do exist there, but only on the main level near each of two exits. The April 4 abduction took place on the basement level, when three men in a maroon van grabbed the employee of National Watch and Diamond on Jeweler’s Row as she walked to her car after work.

Goldenberg Development Group bought the property in March of 2013, but indicated that the task of security falls on the garage manager.

“The garage is leased to a third party, who is responsible for the operation and management of the garage,” said Maureen Garrity, spokeswoman for the Goldenberg Group. “Until this most recent issue, we’ve never had any reports of any criminal incidents at this location, but we’re looking into it.”

When asked whether the company had reached out to police to inquire about any criminal history in the facility prior to its purchase, Garrity said they wouldn’t know to request that information because there was no indication of an issue.

The garage is managed by SP Plus Parking Corporation, which acquired the garage from Central Parking in October 2012. A spokesman there said he would not comment on whose responsibility it was to provide security.

Two weeks ago, Capt. Frank Banford of Philadelphia’s Central Detectives Division said he was shocked by the limited footage available to police investigating the case.

“I nearly dropped dead,” said Banford. “I figured, ‘It’s a parking garage, we’ll have a good shot at the tag,’ I was very surprised we didn’t have anything.”

“Anything can happen anywhere, especially a parking garage,” added Banford. “There’s numerous robberies with people going to their cars, it’s a good place to strike. I think it would behoove them to invest in it.”

Frank Schaffer owns FCS Gems, a jewelry store in the area. He said back in October of 2010 he parked his car there while away on a business trip. When he returned, he found the interior torn apart, the doors open and glass shattered. Garage management never notified him of the incident, which he took as an indication that no one patrolled the area.

“They actually told me that it was illegal to put cameras in a parking garage,” said Schaffer. “I said that’s really funny because then there must be a lot of people breaking laws because I see them in other parking garages.”

He said he hasn’t let his employees park in the facility since the incident. Instead, he parks in a lot around the corner with patrolling security and 24-hour surveillance.

Steven Singer owns a business in the area and is a board member of the Jeweler’s Row Association. He said the group held a meeting last week where security was discussed in general terms but nothing about the 733 Chestnut facility specifically.

“Even though you have a camera, what people don’t realize is that you have to have someone who watches the camera,” said Singer. “Cameras are wonderful and a great deterrent, but they’re really good forensically after the fact, not as good in the moment unless you have somebody who monitors them.”

Singer said his employees and customers park in a lot that’s closer to his business, and has a patrolling guard, reverse-locked doors and a security guard posted in the lobby monitoring cameras.

Neither the Goldenberg Group or SP Plus Parking Corporation would comment on whether there was a plan in place to increase security at the facility following the recent abduction.

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