Members of the West Philadelphia community, concerned about recent attacks in the area, gathered at the senior living facility at the Walnut Park Plaza on Feb. 3.
The meeting, hosted by state Rep. Ronald G. Waters, was called in response to two rapes and an attempted rape in the area. The rapes occurred about two blocks from one another around the 6100 block of Delancey Street.
“The event was held because, in the area not far from where I live, there had been a few women who had been attacked,” Waters said. “Once I became aware of it I called the police station to get the status of what was being done to catch this perpetrator and get him behind bars where he belonged.”
Those attending the meeting had an opportunity to hear from police officers from the 18th Police District, as well as other law enforcement officers from the Special Victims Unit who updated them on what was being done to protect the area and its residents.
“The officers [18th district police] were on the case, working on some leads and fortunately, for the peaceful, law-abiding people in the area, the perpetrator was apprehended, and while in police custody admitted to his crime,” Waters said.
Captain David Bellamy, of the 18th district, was present at the event and updated the residents on the arrest of the perpetrator, an 18-year-old Black male whose identity has not yet been released by Tribune press time. Bellamy spoke about the arrest of the perpetrator during a telephone interview.
“We set up a coordinated plan with Special Victims,” he said.
One of the concerns of the residents, many of whom were senior citizens, was the issue of a lack of initial public notification about the crimes.
“We found out one attempted rape on Jan. 3rd, and we were concerned, but there was no recognizable pattern [at the time],” Bellamy said. “On Jan. 10, after the second attempt, that’s when we noticed a recognizable pattern.”
With a pattern established, the 18th Police District was able to coordinate with members of the Special Crimes Unit and for a matrix.
“With the action plan we apprehended the guy on Jan. 11 in the process of trying to commit a third attack in the same vicinity,” Bellamy said. “He [the perpetrator] tried to attack another female, and we chased him down and apprehended him. We set up about ten officers in that area and the plan worked.”
Bellamy said the attacks happened mostly to people who were walking in the area.
Waters said there are some lessons that can be learned about personal safety.
“There is some evidence, I’ll say, that we can learn by,” he said. “Were the women targeted for any particular reason? How can the women in our neighborhood protect themselves so that they wouldn’t become victims, too?”
In response to these questions, one observation was that some of the women who were attacked were believed to have been distracted in public because they were listening to music devices or were talking on their cell phones at the time of their attacks.
“It’s a good wake-up call so that we can all be very conscious of our surroundings,” Waters said.
The audience was advised to always be aware of surroundings and reduce distractions while in public.
“They spoke about the importance of knowing where your keys are so that you can gain quick entrance into your home …,” Waters said. “Some women will get out of their car, have their keys in their pocketbook and have to search through their pocketbooks — and while searching for their keys they are not paying attention to their surroundings.”