by Sue Ann Rybak
“The sled was just sitting there on the porch,” said Philadelphia Police Officer Fred Wiley recalling a story from his childhood. Wiley was going sledding with his friends when someone suggested he borrow the sled. No one was around, so Wiley decided to borrow it and return it later.
Wiley, who grew up in Germantown, said his his family didn’t have a lot of money after his Dad had died when he was young.
“I didn’t own a sled,” he said.
Unfortunately for him, he borrowed a sled from a Philadelphia police officer’s porch. Sure enough, the officer found Wiley sledding with his buddies and took down his name and address.
“I knew I should have asked, but I didn’t,” Wiley said. “I told him I was going to return it.”
The officer replied that next time all he had to do was ask.
“And he did let me borrow it in the future when I asked,” Wiley added, noting that he .
learned important lessons that day – not only to be an honest, law-abiding citizen but also the importance of making a connection with the people in your neighborhood.
They are lessons he has carried throughout his 32-year career in law enforcement. As Chestnut Hill’s new beat officer, he will continue building relationships with the community’s store owners and residents.
Prior to joining the police department in 1996, Wiley worked as a corrections officer in the Philadelphia prison system for more than 16 years. The 15-year police veteran has received more than 27 commendations for acts of heroism, bravery, valor and outstanding arrests.
He recalled one arrest after a man was breaking into houses and cars and stealing laptops, phones and cameras. Someone reported seeing the subject in the neighborhood, so Wiley suggested to his partner that they check the next SEPTA bus going down the Avenue.
“We saw him sitting in the back of the bus,” Wiley said. “We followed the bus until he got off at Duval Street, carrying a backpack with a laptop, cameras, phones and other items that weren’t his.”
Wiley said he was happy to be back in uniform after working 13 years as a plainclothes narcotics cop in the 14th District.
“People in Chestnut Hill tend to be more laid back,” Wiley said.
He said residents need to take more precautions to secure valuables. While some situations can’t be prevented, Wiley said, simple things, like locking valuables in the trunk, making sure there is good lighting around your house or business and installing security cameras, can make a big difference.
Captain John Fleming said Wiley’s role in the community will be to act as a community liaison and provide security in the neighborhood.
“I want him to be visible and vocal with store owners and residents,” Fleming said. “He is the ideal person to be a foot beat officer because he has that ‘old-school, service-first’ mentality. He represents me up there, and that’s why I chose him because I have total confidence in him.”