While theft from vehicles remains a persistent issue in Mount Airy and elsewhere across the city, local police officials continue to maintain that many of these crimes are preventable.
At the monthly Police Service Area 3 meeting, an area which encompasses West Mount Airy and sections of Germantown, Lt. Dennis Rosenbaum of the 14th District told residents that of the 34 major crimes reported from roughly mid-December to mid-January, 16 – almost half – were thefts from vehicles.
In a few instances, the metal frames of car doors were bent backwards. However, he indicated that the overwhelming majority of these incidents occurred with vehicles that were unlocked.
While no geographical pattern presented itself, Rosenbaum said the busiest nights for car break-ins were Tuesday and Friday.
Rosenbaum said 14th District personnel made one theft from auto-related arrest last week, and as is often the case with similar theft arrests, Rosenbaum indicated that this could lead for additional clearances of previous vehicle break-ins.
‘A problem for decades’
In addition to thefts from auto, burglaries also remain a concern in PSA-3, with 12 being reported in the same time period. Statistically, Rosenbaum said that his figure is consistent with prior reporting periods, with the majority of the offenses occurring during daylight hours while residents are at work.
Capt. John Fleming with the 14th District, who made a surprise visit at the meeting, said that while violent crimes are unusual in this segment of his district, property crimes remain an ongoing problem.
“We haven’t had a burglary problem for the last five years or the last ten years,” he said. “They’ve been a problem for decades.”
Fleming said that police are upping enforcement through altered deployment tactics and strategic end-runs on burglars.
Rosenbaum noted that private surveillance cameras can be extremely useful for both homeowners and police, and that modern windows can prevent easy access by criminals.
A need for specifics
Rounding out the month’s statistics were four robberies along with reports of vandalism in the area of SEPTA’s Carpenter Station, a stop along the agency’s Chestnut Hill West Line.
While limits exist on the powers of police with regard to the latter – only summary offenses can be issued unless the act was witnessed by police, except with crimes against institutions – Rosenbaum said that he will be aggressive in responding to local residents with vandalism complaints, as he is with all calls for service.
He noted that sometimes there’s problem of perception regarding police responsiveness. He used a recent episode to highlight this disparity.
Returning to patrol in Mount Airy this weekend after completing his supervisory duties at a shooting, Rosenbaum said that police dispatch received numerous calls for reports of shots fired in the vicinity of the 300 block of Allens Lane. Being nearby, Rosenbaum was on scene within a minute and surveyed the area.
“There wasn’t a soul out,” he recalled, save for a cat.
Seeing nothing, he drove around the corner onto M. Airy Avenue near Nippon Street where a man was seen getting into a vehicle at approximately 4 a.m. Rosenbaum pulled the individual over, but after questioning, determined that there was no reason to detain the man.
While conducting additional patrols, Rosenbaum said that the lights of homes were on, but no one flagged him and his officers down to provide additional information.
Rosenbaum said a complaint was subsequently filed suggesting a “timid” police response. Replying to this, Rosenbaum reached out to community members to explain the efforts of police, noting that one resident was upset that police never came to his house.
Rosenbaum informed those present at the meeting that unless specific address information is given, under regulations, police dispatch must generalize the location.
Ultimately, shell casings were found in the street the following day, which Rosenbaum surmised was the result of people firing into the air while driving. He suggested that residents be as specific as possible when calling police.
“We’ll come,” he said. “It’s not a problem – that’s what we get paid to do.”