Police urge caution as armed robbers target Northwest Philly, suburban neighborhoods

by Pete Mazzaccaro
Posted 2/2/21

Police warned residents to exercise caution as a pattern of robberies extended to include more than a dozen armed holdups this month in East Mt. Airy, Wadsworth, Chestnut Hill and the suburban …

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Police urge caution as armed robbers target Northwest Philly, suburban neighborhoods

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Police warned residents to exercise caution as a pattern of robberies extended to include more than a dozen armed holdups this month in East Mt. Airy, Wadsworth, Chestnut Hill and the suburban townships of Springfield and Upper Moreland.

On Wednesday, Jan. 29, Police Lt. Demetrios Pittaoulis presided over a Zoom meeting for residents of the 14th District’s PSA 4, a division of the district that contains Chestnut Hill, Wadsworth and a portion of Mt. Airy. It was attended by more than 40 residents who had seen news reports and social media posts about the robberies and wanted to know how they could remain safe and what measures the police were taking to address the situation.

Most of the robberies, Pittaoulis said, were carried out under similar circumstances. All, he said, took place after 4 p.m. He also said that in most cases, the victims were exiting their vehicles so were likely to be less aware of their surroundings than someone walking. Each time a victim was approached by two young men who produced handguns and demanded that their victims give them everything they had on them – from wallets and keys to phones and loose cash.

In last week’s crime report in the Local, we reported on three incidents – two on the 300 block of E. Gorgas Lane in E. Mt. Airy and one on the 100 block of E. Moreland Ave. in Chestnut Hill – that were among the approximately 12 cases Pittaoulis referenced at Wednesday’s meeting. He also included two recent carjackings the Local reported on earlier this year, one in Chestnut Hill and the other in W. Mt. Airy.

“We don't have any suspects identified yet,” Pittaoulis said. “We're working with detectives from Northwest Detectives and also Springfield Township to try to identify these two individuals.”

The pandemic and prevalence of face masks made it particularly difficult to identify the robbers from witnesses or any surveillance video that might be available, he said.

Pittaoulis urged everyone to be vigilant when they were leaving or arriving at their homes.

“Look around and if you see someone that's not known to you, drive around the block a time or two,” he said. “Call family members and say ‘Hey look out the window. See those people? How long have they been there?’ Communicate with your neighbors because not everyone knows this is going on. … Tell your neighbor when you see something suspicious. Let them tell you when they see something suspicious. Call 911 if something seems out of the ordinary. If you see two individuals walking around and casing the block and you know them not to live there, call [911].”

Pittaoulis said that 14th District officers had increased their patrols of the neighborhoods and are driving in residential neighborhoods in order to both discourage would-be robbers or to be more available to catch them in the act.

Reginald Hall, a community support specialist who works in training residents around the city who want to start town watches was on the call and offered his services to anyone who needed them. Pittaoulis said he had received numerous emails from community residents looking to wither form or join town watch groups.

“We’re trying to find out how many town watch groups are active in Northwest Philadelphia,” Hall said. “We can come out and train anyone who is interested.”

Hall said people could email him at Reginald.hall@phila.gov. Lt. Pattoulis can be reached at Demetrios.Pittaoulis@phila.gov. The 14th district posts information about its meetings t facebook.com/14thDistrictPDAC.

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