Due to an increase in theft from vehicles at the end of winter break, the Division of Public Safety — along with Drexel Police Department and the Philadelphia Police Department — created a new task force to fight this form of theft.
The most recent theft from vehicles was discovered on Jan. 25 at 10:35 p.m. A car was found with a smashed window at the Penn Tower Parking Garage — the parking garage for access to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania — and a GPS and cash were missing. At that same time, the police found another vehicle with a broken window, but it is unknown if anything was stolen. As a response, HUP is increasing security for the garage.
“The task force will work covertly and overtly to see if we can apprehend the individual or individuals committing the crimes,” Vice President for Public Safety, Maureen Rush, said. The officers on the task force will be working late hours to see if they can find any suspicious activity.
Within the Penn Patrol Zone, the area between 30th and 43rd streets from Market Street to Baltimore Avenue, the number of thefts from vehicles rose from 40 in 2012 to 50 in 2013. There were nine thefts in October 2013, 10 in November 2013 and a drop to only one in December 2013.
Some of the thefts in November were committed by two people who stole airbags out of old Hondas. It is believed that they were responsible for 12 airbag thefts across Philadelphia. As of the end of November, DPS and the Philadelphia Police were able to find and arrest one of the two culprits responsible.
After a 33-year-old man named James Tesar was arrested on Jan. 2 for theft from auto, the number of local incidents has dropped. Since Tesar has been released from custody, the number has risen again, according to Captain Joseph Fischer, the DPS point person for the task force. This increase, which occurred near the end of winter break, led to the creation of the task force.
“We look at who has been released with a similar history for thefts from autos. If that person is again committing similar crimes, we want to get that person off the street,” Fischer said.
It is not clear whether the most recent increase in theft from vehicles is directly linked to Tesar, and it is likely that there are multiple people involved, Rush said.
“This type of thief is a specialist. They break windows very quickly, they reach in and take what’s exposed,” Rush said. “You want to be the car that doesn’t look worthy to break into.”
Rush added that one way to protect a car from theft is to make it look “showroom ready” by removing any valuables from plain sight,added comma so that it doesn’t look like there’s anything to take.
Rush added that task forces are often formed when DPS notices an increase in a certain type of crime.
“Once you identify a pattern you can’t just sit back. You have to be very aggressive or it’s just going to fuel more thefts being committed,” Fischer said.
Neither the Philadelphia Police nor the Drexel Police could be reached for comment.