Police: Chestnut Hill robbery in May the largest in recent memory

Chestnut Hill residents wanted to know: Where are our cops?

At a public meeting held by the 14th Police District on Wednesday night, some residents of Chestnut Hill expressed concern about a lack of visible police presence the area, which along with sections of E. Mt Airy is located within Police Service Area Four (PSA-4).

Other community members countered such remarks. Capt. John Fleming addressed the perception of a lack of police assigned to “the Hill.”

“If I went to Mt. Airy, if I went to West Oak Lane, if I went to Germantown,” said Fleming, “I’d probably get the same complaint from all four neighborhoods.”

Unable to speak to direct deployment numbers per departmental guidelines, Fleming said that several officers are assigned to PSA-4 at any given time, but this is contingent upon staffing levels which change from shift to shift.

Fleming added that some officers have been intentionally kept out of plainclothes assignments to boost police visibility, and that bike cops will continue to patrol Germantown Ave.

“I’m trying to show you more of a presence,” he said, “and I’m not going to stop doing that.”

Looking for feedback

While Fleming spoke to command-level decisions, police officers present at the meeting spoke to what’s happening on the ground.

Officer Thomas Seymour, a 15-year veteran of the 14th District, said that on any given shift he’s putting as many as 75 miles on his patrol vehicle in PSA-4, where he is permanently assigned. Seymour told residents he knows every nook of the district, and that he can get to any location “as fast as the car and the lights will get us there.”

“We’re up and down some streets two and three times a night,” he said. “Even if you don’t see us, we’re out there.”

To bolster their interaction with the community, Seymour said that anyone who provides tips to police in PSA-4 and is willing to provide their contact information to 911 dispatchers can receive feedback from responding officers.

“We’ll come back to your house and tell you whether those people were on the level or not,” he said. “We’ll give you that feedback so you know your call just didn’t go unanswered.”

Biggest robbery in recent memory

With concerns about deployment addressed, police relayed that crime statistics in PSA-4 have upticked, indicating that seven robberies and 11 residential burglaries occurred in the period from May 1 to May 22. In the most recent period available for comparison – a month-long stretch occurring from mid-February to mid-March – two robberies and six residential and commercial burglaries were reported.

Of the 11 residential burglaries so far in May, one in Chestnut Hill was among the largest to occur in the Northwest in recent memory.

Sometime after 7:30 a.m. on May 15, someone kicked in the doors of a private residence on the 700 block of St. Andrews Street in Chestnut Hill. Once inside, thieves ransacked the bedroom, ultimately taking $100,000 of jewelry from the home, said to be the residence of a once-prominent Philadelphia figurehead.

According to police reports, an alarm was installed in the home but was not activated at the time of the burglary, a trait shared with several other recent burglaries in the area.

Fleming said that while he could not convey any specific details about the St. Andrews Street heist given the ongoing investigation, he suggested all available information is being aggressively pursued by detectives.

While the increases are stark when taken at face value, 14th District commanders are wary of month-to-month statistical analysis.

“Month to month statistics are misleading,” said Fleming, “because if have no shootings last month, and one this month, I have a 100 percent increase.”

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