In two separate incidents since July 1, two young men who were walking along Chestnut Hill streets each were forced into a car at gunpoint.
In two separate incidents since July 1, two young men who were walking along Chestnut Hill streets each were forced into a car at gunpoint by two unknown men and then driven to various locations and made to hand over cash.
Both victims eventually were released and were physically unharmed. As of Tuesday, police could not say whether they believe the two incidents are related, and had no comment other than to say that the incidents were under investigation.
“We’re still working to see if they’re connected,” said Philadelphia police spokeswoman Jasmine Reilly. “Police have increased patrols in the area, just to make sure there’s a public safety presence.”
According to police reports, the first abduction occurred at about 2 a.m. on July 1, on the 200 block of East Evergreen Avenue. The victim, who is 29 years old, reported that he was out walking that night when two men he did not know approached him and demanded money. After handing over $60, he was forced into a car at gunpoint and driven to an unknown location. The offenders threatened to kill him unless they received $2,000, so he told them he had cash at his home. The perpetrators drove him to that address, followed him into his home, and took the $3,500 he had in cash. At that point, the two men drove him to the rear alley in the 7200 block of Pitville Avenue near Northwood Cemetery in West Oak Lane and told him to walk home.
The second kidnapping occurred at around 2:15 p.m. on July 13, on Bethlehem Pike just above the intersection with Chestnut Hill Avenue, near the Hilltop Books store. That incident was witnessed by a young woman who had just left Matines Cafe and saw a young white male being forced into the back of a “white, grayish Camry, older model,” which then drove east toward Springfield Township. According to various neighbors, the victim, a new tenant, had just moved into a building on the block.
According to police spokeswoman OReilly, the victim, who she said is 28 years old, later reported that he had been forced into the car at gunpoint.
“He was approached by two unknown Black males, who forced him into a vehicle at the point of a gun, then drove him to several locations to withdraw money from ATM machines, and to transfer money via a banking app,” she said.
In both cases, the victims had their phones, wallet and keys stolen, and both were forced to hand over funds via Cash App, a web-based tool for sharing money.
O’Reilly said such incidents are “not uncommon” in Philadelphia. She could not, however, immediately say how many other such kidnappings have been reported, or in what neighborhoods.
“There have been other kidnapping incidents throughout the city,” she said. “There are a lot of incidents where people get forced into a car, or pushed into a house, and asked to produce money.”
Typically, O’Reilly said, the perpetrators have some “knowledge or belief that this specific person has money.”
“Normally, with these incidents, the person who’s doing the robbery and kidnapping is aware, or has some reason to believe, that the victim has money,” she said. “Whether they work at a business, and found out in some other way, they typically are aware that the victim came into some money.”
She could not say whether that was the case in these two incidents.
Anne McNiff, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, said she wants more information.
“I think it is very important for the police to give the community any information they can about these crimes, either through a press conference or community meeting,” she said, adding that the CHCA is willing to host such a meeting. “The fact that there have been two such similar crimes in close proximity to each other is very upsetting,” she said.
O’Reilly cautioned residents to “be aware.”
“It’s easy for people to go to certain parts of the city, think they’re safe, and let their guard down,” she said. “It’s important to be aware of your surroundings – if you see people who are walking toward you who you don’t recognize, and they look suspicious, your antenna should be going up.”
She also advised that anyone who gets victimized should “give them what they are asking for, if you can.
“Things are replaceable,” she said “Your life is not.”
That advice was not needed for one near neighbor, who said the kidnappings made her reconsider a recent decision to let her oldest child walk home from summer camps with her friends.
“It just doesn’t feel safe.” she said. “It’s just so scary.”
The kidnappings are being investigated by the Special Victims Unit, so anyone with any information should contact those officers at 215-685-3260.