Philadelphia police have arrested at least one person suspected of involvement in a series of downtown armed robberies.
Police say the streak leading to the arrest began around 6.15pm on Wednesday, when two men got out of a Subaru in the 1300 block of South 19th Street and then stole a silver Fossil watch and a cellphone Samsung to a man and a woman who had unloaded furniture in their garage.
About an hour later, police say, officers arrested three men in the 1700 block of Locust Street for driving a Lincoln MKZ that matched one used in another robbery last week. In this case, two men got out of the car at 200 Mozart Place and stole someone’s Rolex watch at gunpoint.
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After the car was stopped on Locust Street, police said, the victims of the 19th Street robbery were brought to the scene and identified the men in the car as their attackers. Police said it was unclear when the suspects might have moved from the Subaru to the Lincoln; the Subaru has not yet been found.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Thursday morning that “at least one of these individuals was also involved in at least one of many similar armed robberies that have occurred over the past few weeks in the downtown core.” She did not identify any of the suspects and police did not announce any charges. They only said that two of the men arrested on Wednesday were 19 and the other was 22.
Chief Inspector Frank Vanore called the arrests a “significant break” in an ongoing investigation into a series of armed robberies. Detectives believe there may be links between a dozen cases in the city center dating back to September, including what Vanore said was the robbery at gunpoint over the weekend of a watch from a groomsman at a wedding in the Old Town.
In many cases, Vanore said, thieves appear to have targeted people for personal items such as expensive jewelry or watches. He said the robberies often appeared to involve two or three suspects, who appeared “very concealed” in surveillance videos, usually wearing hoodies and COVID masks.
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Deputy Commissioner Joel Dales said the department has assigned more patrol officers to Center City in response to the robberies, and the FBI is also helping. He did not give details on either initiative. Dales said police have spoken with the business community about the robberies, and he urged anyone who might encounter a robber to give them what they want.
“I don’t want anyone resisting or fighting violators for replaceable items,” Dales said.
Vanore said no one was shot in any of the downtown robberies being investigated by detectives.
Police statistics show there were 25 armed robberies in the city center in December, the most for this region in a month in 2021. Yet these crimes are hardly confined to the center- town.
There have been more than 2,400 armed robberies across the city this year – an average of more than 40 per week – 27% more than the same date last year, according to police statistics . Unarmed robberies, meanwhile, decreased by about 13%.
The vast majority of armed robberies, about 94%, took place outside the city center, according to an Inquirer analysis of police statistics. About 20% of firearm robberies this year occurred in police districts covering Kensington, Fairhill and North Philadelphia. Another 21% occurred in districts spanning West and Southwest Philadelphia.
On Tuesday, police announced the arrest of two men accused of committing 13 armed robberies at Latino-owned businesses around Feltonville’s Wyoming Avenue commercial corridor. Authorities credited business owners and neighbors with working together and seeking advice that helped officers identify the suspects, 28-year-old Omar White-Davis and 20-year-old Acia Moore.
District Attorney Larry Krasner addressed the matter at a press conference on Monday, saying, “Anyone who thinks stealing is an option, I want you to understand that we have jail cells for you. , and if we get you, we’ll do everything we can, because it’s extremely serious.
Writer Mensah M. Dean contributed to this article.