Mt. Airy community discusses recent crime patterns

 Captain John Fleming of the 14th District addressing the crowd at 7165 Lounge on Wednesday night. (Daniel Pasquarello/for NewsWorks)

Captain John Fleming of the 14th District addressing the crowd at 7165 Lounge on Wednesday night. (Daniel Pasquarello/for NewsWorks)

A full house convened at 7165 Lounge in Mt. Airy on Wednesday night to talk about recent crime issues in the neighborhood.

Captain John Fleming of the 14th District, Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass, Kyasha Tyson, from the Office of State Representative Cherelle Parker, and Doug Evans, from Town Watch Integrated Services were on hand to talk to community members. 

“This is how things get started. We need our neighborhoods to be engaged. Now it is up to us to make sure that the resources and opportunities are there to make a difference,” said Bass.

Elayne Bender, executive director of East Mt. Airy Neighbors set a cool and measured tone in her opening remarks.

“This meeting wasn’t set up to scare anyone or to turn us all into a band of shrieking vigilantes,” she said. “We need to be informed about what is happening in the neighborhood. We need to talk with people who can suggest ways we can both stay safe as individuals and help others stay safe.”

The problem

Captain Fleming spoke first, offering an overview of crime in the 14th District.

He reported that violent crime is down, including strong-arm robberies, and that burglaries are down as well, while firearm possession arrests are up.

He noted some of the most pressing problems in the PSAs serving Mt. Airy are cellphone robberies and theft from autos.

In cases of theft from auto, arrests are often difficult to make, as in over 70 percent of incidents the stolen property was removed from a car left unlocked.

Police in the 14th District have made nine arrests in the last month related to cases of theft from auto. It appears from some of these arrests and other intelligence that many of the thefts in the Mt Airy area are being committed by young people of high school age.

Fleming advised those present to call the police if they see something suspicious.

A recent string

Fleming also provided information regarding the early Wednesday morning robbery of the Wawa at Germantown Avenue and Allens Lane. The suspect being sought in connection to the crime is thought to be responsible for two other robberies occurring on Wednesday, one at the Rite Aid near the intersection of Broad Street and Stenton Avenue, the other at the Dunkin’ Donuts near the intersection of Stenton Avenue and Washington Lane.

The suspect is believed to be driving a white four-door sedan with tinted windows and is a 5′ 5″ female. Quality video footage from security cameras at the Wawa and the Dunkin’ Donuts should be forthcoming.

In response to questions regarding the availability of cameras and camera footage for criminal investigations, Fleming noted that police publish videos provided to them by NW Detectives, who are responsible for investigating crimes occurring in Mt. Airy.

With respect to steps homeowners and businesses might take to acquire security cameras, he added that the Crime Prevention Officer for the 14th District, Sharrod Davis, is available to home and business owners for consultations.

“If [cameras] are offered to me, I will recommend they go to locations I think most need them, the intersection of Germantown Avenue and Chelten Avenue being number one,” said Fleming. 

Looking toward a solution 

Bass noted that while the issues of crime, education, and employment are all related, education is the key.

“We can’t ensure a job for everyone that is released from incarceration back onto the streets. Every time one person gets out there is another one waiting in the wings. The only way that we can really break this cycle — and it is a vicious cycle — is to help our kids through education understand that there is more out there in the world than life on the streets,” she said. 

“It’s going to take time and effort to make a dent in the problem and start turning things around.”

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