Philly police say repeat sex offender was city employee

Philadelphia Police announced Tuesday they have arrested the man they believe is a responsible for a series of sexual assaults around Philadelphia – and that he is a Philadelphia Streets Department employee.

Safien Williams, 37, a Point Breeze resident, was identified as the suspect linked to up to nine sexual assaults, in most cases of which victims were approached or followed by a male on a bicycle, who in almost every case threatened them with a knife, often punched them, in others robbed the victims, and in some cases forced them into their private properties to assault them.

So far Williams has been formally charged for four incidents from December to February. He may be linked other sex assaults. Williams previously was sentenced to eight years for a burglary case, and was released in 2016.

“An arrest was made of a very violent predator who essentially terrorized an entire neighborhood, and essentially held folks captive by his very violent, predatory acts,” Philly Police Commissioner Richard Ross said in a press conference on Tuesday morning.

“They all started on the street, he would follow them and when they got to their place of business or apartments, he would push them inside,” said Capt. Mark Burgmann of the Special Victims Unit.

Burgmann said tips from the public over the weekend after surveillance images were released led them to Williams, whose home they searched at 4:40 p.m. Monday.

Burgmann said they found clothes matching those worn by the suspect in Williams’ home, and a bicycle matching victims’ descriptions nearby. In some cases Williams would approach victims, in one he asked for a hug; in another he asked for a kiss, before assaulting the women.

Using DNA evidence, Williams was linked to and charged with multiple crimes, including two rapes on Feb. 22, one rape in may 2018, and an indecent assault on Feb. 17.

“We believe that he is probably going to be identified in numerous other crimes that occurred,” Burgmann said.

Williams was hired in July 2018 at Streets and served as an unskilled laborer, Ross said, declining to give further details.

Ross urged anyone with information or who may have been victims of Williams to contact police to report the crimes.

Ross urged even undocumented immigrants to come forward, saying that “he may have preyed on people like this,” as “one or more victims were not U.S. residents,” Ross said.

“A victim is a victim. We’re not concerned about your status,” Ross said.

Anyone with info about Williams or any other sex crimes can contact the Special Victims Unit at 215-685-3251/3252.

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