Burglars hitting businesses during shutdown

A store in Northern Liberties is closed due to the pandemic. According to police statistics, commercial burglaries are up more than 50 percent since the city shut down nonessential businesses. 
Melissa Mitman

A jewelry store owner in North Philadelphia showed up to check on his shop Monday morning and found cases smashed and $25,000 worth of valuables stolen.

Last Wednesday, a man broke the side door of the Ross at 7th and Market streets and took three packs of men’s underwear, valued at $40. He was last spotted fleeing through SEPTA’s nearby Market-Frankford Line station.

At a time when most businesses are shuttered due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 virus, stores can ill afford to have merchandise snatched off the shelves.

Overall, crime—aside from homicides and shootings—is down. However, there’s been an uptick in burglaries involving businesses, at least according to the District Attorney’s Office and police statistics.

DA Larry Krasner called it a “significant spike.”

From Feb. 24 to March 22, there were 75 reported commercial burglaries, according to data compiled by the police department. Between March 23 and April 19, there were 117 such burglaries, a 56 percent increase.

Philadelphia’s shutdown of nonessential businesses went into effect March 16.

The data also shows that commercial burglaries are up about 22 percent compared to the same time last year.

Residential burglaries, meanwhile, have decreased significantly. They’re down nearly 24 percent since businesses were forced to close.

That makes sense, Krasner said, because most thieves would prefer to steal from unoccupied properties, and most people have been staying home.

City Managing Director Brian Abernathy, when asked about the issue during the city’s daily briefing Monday, said statistics he’s seen indicate commercial burglaries are down.

Instead, he’s said Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration has noted an increase in armed robberies. The police data indicates robberies involving guns are up roughly 3 percent since March 22.

There hasn’t been a concerted effort to discuss burglaries with businesses owners, Abernathy said.

“The deployment plans for all of our retail and commercial corridors are strong,” he said. “We’ve increased, again, not just the officers, but the number of patrols.”

“We certainly have specific incidents we can all point to,” Abernathy added. “Many of those incidents would have happened regardless of the pandemic and our current posture.”

He did say that the city should get together with the business community at some point to talk about crime.

“We certainly should have a broader conversation with our business corridors, and we’ll certainly make that happen,” Abernathy said.

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