Taking their first bite out of crime, Penn Watch members Justin Faust and Doug Martin assisted University Police in an arrest Monday night. This is the first time the civilian student group was able to help police apprehend a criminal. At about 11:20 p.m. Monday, the two Wharton juniors, who have been members since the group's inception last year, spotted a suspicious man running down 40th Street near Spruce Street. Faust said that he and Martin began following the man, who was running at "breakneck speed" at first and then slowed to brisk pace, continually looking behind his shoulder. Once out of the Penn Watch members' sight, the suspect sped away in a car, Faust said. He and Martin, who were posted at 41st and Spruce streets, radioed their observation of a suspicious man to University Police. While the two were contacting officers, they were approached by two University students who said they had just been robbed, Faust added. The description of the robber given by the victims matched that of the suspicious man. A suspect robbed the two students at gunpoint of $102 and MAC cards, indicating to the students that he had a gun in his waistband and then demanded money. The weapon found on the man who was apprehended was determined to be a BB gun, University Police said. Within 30 seconds after the radio call was made, University Police arrived at the scene, according to Faust. With the suspect's description, University Police saw a man who matched it getting into a car and fleeing. University Police officer Al Sulpizio followed and eventually stopped the suspect's car at 56th and Spruce streets. Another male was also in the car. The victims positively identified the suspect and he was arrested and taken to Southwest Detectives. He admitted robbing the students of their money and MAC cards, which will be returned to the students. University Police were very grateful for the help from Penn Watch. "We would have never made the apprehension if it wasn't for Penn Watch," University Police Capt. John Richardson said. "They are the extensions of our eyes and ears -- the fact that they're out there helps us do our job that much more effectively." But the two people who were the most thankful for Penn Watch's assistance were the victims, College sophomores Michael Pinto and Mark McGrath. Pinto said that the volunteers did an excellent job and acted in a professional manner. "They took control of the situation and they were really calm and knew what to do," he said. "If it's just this one time they have helped, it's worth all the time and effort they put in." McGrath said that while he had been a bit skeptical of the effectiveness of Penn Watch before Monday's robbery, yesterday's events have changed his perception. "I didn't really think a couple of kids walking around could do much," McGrath said. "But because of them, they got the guy who did it. It's nice knowing that they're out there for everyone." Faust said being a part of Penn Watch's first real arrest was very exciting and epitomized why he has stuck with the group from the beginning. "I'm damn excited that Doug and I did this," he said. "This is what the whole thing was started for." Penn Watch President and College senior Jon Brightbill agreed. "This is a milestone," he said. "There has been a contingent of naysayers out there that say we're not doing any good. This demonstrates that there is certainly a role Penn students can play in helping the police and the community." Martin said Penn Watch has primarily dealt with reporting thefts from auto and other minor crimes. He added that Monday's arrest gave him a real sense of accomplishment. "You feel like you've been doing something when you've actually stopped a crime," he said. "This kind of reaffirmed for me that it's worthwhile." Victim Support and Special Services Director Maureen Rush has been one of the biggest supporters of Penn Watch and conducts the training sessions for the group. "It was a textbook example of the how the community and the police can work together to solve crime," she said. "What we want mostly to do is make the community appear to be a place where you don't want to commit a crime because they're enough eyes and ears looking at you." For Faust and Martin, it's all in a day's work. Next Monday they will be out around 41st and Spruce streets doing their job, flashlight and radio in hand. "We kind of have our territory now and we're proud to defend it," Martin said.Comments powered by Disqus
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