Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Northeast Times Covers Crime Forum

From the Northeast Times:

Bhakta brought his "Save the Northeast" campaign last week to Lawncrest, where aggravated assaults with guns have more than doubled in the last few years.

Bhakta, a Republican challenging U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-13th dist.), held a forum on the issue of crime at the Lawncrest Recreation Center. He held a similar discussion on crime last month in Bridesburg.

"It should be the No. 1 priority of every elected official," he said.

More than 100 people attended the Aug. 17 event at the recreation center. The crowd included Lawncrest Town Watch president Ken Hyers, who later that night helped nab a suspected rapist.

Hyers, whose group was recently named Most Outstanding Town Watch in the 2nd Police District, urged his neighbors to call 911 whenever they see a crime. That way, the city will know there are problems in the neighborhood and will increase police presence.

Hyers encouraged citizens to join the Town Watch by calling 215-745-1200 or attending a meeting on Sept. 19 at St. William parish hall.

"Give us one hour a month," he said.

Others in attendance included Town Watch Integrated Services program supervisor Chad Enos and community activists C.B. Kimmins and Greg Bucceroni.

Kimmins told the residents that they should work closely with the 2nd district, adding that Capt. Michael McCarrick is a friend of community activists.

Bhakta supports increased federal funding to hire police officers and build prisons. A decrease in crime, he said, will make neighborhoods more livable.

The candidate will hold another crime forum next week at Cannstatter’s.

Northeast Times: Cops Capture Industrious Offender

Northeast Times chronicles criminal montage.

Police have nabbed a Crescentville man who allegedly sexually assaulted a woman earlier this month and attempted to abduct two teenage girls last week.

Antwaine Mathis, 18, of the 500 block of E. Carver St., was arrested at about 10 p.m. Thursday after he had attempted to take two teenage girls into his car on the 300 block of Sanger St., said Capt. Jack McGinnis of Northeast Detectives.

The girls, ages 15 and 16, broke free of Mathis, who then pointed a weapon at bystanders and attempted to flee in a blue Mercury, McGinnis said. Officers from the 2nd Police District apprehended Mathis. His weapon turned out to be a pellet gun.

Lawncrest Town Watch president Ken Hyers had been in his back yard when he heard screams. He had just come from an emergency community crime meeting called by Raj Bhatka, the Republican candidate in the 13th Congressional District.

"I heard someone yell, ‘Call 911,’" Hyers told the Times.

Hyers said he startled Mathis by shining a flashlight at him. By that point, other neighbors had started coming out onto the street. He commends other residents of the block and 2nd Police District officers for their help in stopping Mathis.

"I felt like I did what I needed to do as a Town Watch member," said Hyers, who added that he was focused on getting a good look at Mathis to provide police with a description. "All the neighbors came out."

He said the girls whom Mathis allegedly attempted to abduct are still shaken but doing better.

The other incident, a sexual assault, occurred on Monday, Aug. 7, at about 12:40 a.m. in an alley behind the 200 block of E. Comly St., police said.

The 30-year-old female victim was walking home when a man approached her from behind, threatened her with a gun, forced her into an alley and assaulted her. He then fled on foot in an unknown direction.

Police contend that Mathis used a long black handgun with an ammunition clip attached during the attack. Following the incident, police released a composite sketch of the then-unknown suspect in the hope that someone would recognize him.

Capt. John Darby, of the special victims unit, commended 2nd district Officer Terrance Black, who recalled the composite of the suspect in the sexual assault when Mathis was apprehended.

"A lot of different law enforcement people in various capacities were all working together," Darby said.

Mathis also is allegedly responsible for two robberies, one on the 5800 block of Newtown Ave. on Aug. 6 at 3:53 p.m., and another on the 6400 block of Bingham St. on Aug. 10 at 12:27 a.m. A total of $176 in cash was stolen.

Mathis has been charged with aggravated assault, robbery and burglary in addition to kidnapping, rape, sexual assault, violation of the federal Uniform Firearms Act and other related offenses.

He is being held on $1.2 million bail. A preliminary hearing has been set for Aug. 29.

Northeast Times: "It Got A Little Worse Each Time"

Northeast Times describes church vandalism.

Jack Hill, Dave Tuley and their fellow members of the Macalester-Torresdale Presbyterian Church have seen plenty of troublemakers come and go in the 40-plus years since their church moved to the corner of Morrell and East Crown avenues.

But few, if any, have been more troublesome than the batch currently antagonizing the Far Northeast congregation.

Hill, the church’s sexton, and Tuley, the church’s property committee chairman, have been struggling for the last couple of months to keep up with repairs to the damage left by church trespassers.

The primary problem, they say, has been graffiti. But that’s just the latest vandalism affecting the house of worship.

Hill and Tuley now hope that if they draw more public attention to the issue, perhaps it will end once and for all — or at least for the time being.

"This has been an ongoing affair for years," Hill said last week while pointing out the spots on the church most recently defaced by paint-wielding vandals.

"We’ve been here since 1964. One year, we had to get the windows repaired and it cost us $1,400. One year, they tore the back fence down. When the kids that are doing it grow older, it seems to die down. But then a new batch comes along and it picks up again."

The church has about 60 members, including a large number of senior citizens. It represents a merger of two earlier congregations, the Macalester and Torresdale
Presbyterian churches, which each date back more than a century.

This month has been particularly trying for the congregation.

"We’ve had it over the years, but not to this extent," Hill said.

"Usually they don’t keep coming back," Tuley added.

After one significant bout with graffiti in late June or early July, the vandals returned late on Aug. 4 or early Aug. 5 to strike again.

Hill and Tuley had painted over the graffiti the first time around, so the vandals treated the church like a clean slate, scrawling their names, or "tags," on doors, windows and a brick wall.

The church officers painted over the damage again, only to discover on Aug. 12 that even more damage had been done to the building during the previous night.

That time, aside from the usual tags, the unwelcome messages included a "666" satanic symbol and the words "Do not wipe off" with an arrow pointing to one of the names.

They defaced the church doors again, along with a railing, a drainpipe, a patio wall and an exhaust vent.

"That’s when they really hit us heavier," Tuley said. "It got a little worse each time."

As is advised by police, the men removed or painted over the graffiti as soon as possible — to minimize the attention or name recognition sought by the vandals — but not before contacting authorities and photographing the damage for investigative purposes.

Police detectives note the names appearing in graffiti throughout the Northeast so they can link multiple instances to a single culprit or group of culprits when appropriate.

There have been no arrests in connection with the church vandalism.

The tags that have appeared on the building are not unique to the neighborhood, however. Some of the same logos are on nearby street signs and on a gate along the perimeter of the church grounds.

Tuley even saw a group of youths vandalizing a sign one time recently, but within an instant they darted around a corner and disappeared. There were about a half-dozen youths who looked big enough to be at least high-school age.

As Tuley watched one boy scribbling on the sign, he heard a girl warn the vandal, "You’re gonna get in trouble," to which the boy replied, "I’m already done. Damn I’m quick."

The graffiti may take only seconds to paint, but it takes many man-hours and plenty of elbow grease to cover up, not to mention a good bit of cash.

Paint costs $8 per quart. Hill and Tuley use at least a couple of quarts every time they have to fix the damage. Paint rollers and brushes are another expense. While Hill earns a stipend as sexton, Tuley’s job is 100 percent voluntary.

The church admittedly has few options in trying to keep out troublemakers late at night and into the early morning hours. Thick woods along the rear of the property provide a good screen for trespassers, some of whom merely use the place as a hangout or drinking spot.

In the past, the 8th Police District has assigned bicycle patrols to the area, but Hill and Tuley realize that special attention as such can’t be permanent. And the youths seem quick to figure out when the coast is clear.

The men figure that their best bet is to get more people on or around the church property more often. Services are held every Sunday morning, while a day-care service uses the church on weekdays.

Also, some new townhouses are being built next door on ground that the church sold to a developer. Hill hopes that the presence of additional families nearby will help matters.

"We’re hoping that the fact that there’s activity there and that they can see the side of the church, that they’ll stop (the vandals)," he said.

As frustrating as the graffiti problem has been lately, Hill and Tuley don’t necessarily want to see a bunch of kids get in major trouble over the issue. All the same, they want the mischief to stop, particularly considering its negative impact on a religious institution.

"I don’t know why they target us. We do a lot for the community," Hill said.

Among many other programs, the church sponsors an annual community Easter egg hunt; distributes food baskets to the needy for Thanksgiving and Christmas; and members cook meals for local homebound seniors.

"It’s not that graffiti isn’t a shame anywhere, but on a church, it’s really a shame," Tuley said.

Northeast Times Designates August’s Most Wanted

From the Northeast Times:

The Philadelphia Police Department’s Northeast Detectives Division has released its latest monthly Five Most Wanted list. The suspects named on the wanted list include:

Christopher Anderson, 26, of the 4700 block of C St., in Feltonville, for burglary, criminal trespass, theft and criminal mischief.

On May 31, Anderson allegedly broke into the apartment of an ex-girlfriend on the 4600 block of Leiper St. and stole a $410 money order as well as two diamond rings. Police said he forced open the apartment door and, when confronted by a another visitor, fled the scene.

Anderson is black, 5-feet-8, and 165 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes.

Frank Batenga, 22, of the 2300 block of Cedar St., in Port Richmond, for criminal conspiracy, attempted theft and criminal mischief.

Sometime between last Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 9 at 7 a.m., Batenga attempted to steal a 2000 Chrysler that was parked along the 8000 block of Rowland Ave., police said. When the owner of the vehicle discovered damage, including a broken window and steering column, she notified police.

Detectives lifted fingerprints from the car and submitted them to police forensic experts, who matched them to a known set of prints belonging to the suspect.

Batenga is white, 5-feet-7, and 135 pounds. He has blond hair, blue eyes and tattoos on both forearms.

Jason Ryan, a.k.a. Jason O’Leary, 26, of the 4300 block of Frankford Ave. in Frankford, for aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

On July 8, shortly before 4:30 a.m., Ryan allegedly confronted two men outside of a bar on the 8000 block of Frankford Ave. and punched out one of them in an apparent argument over the victim’s ex-wife. As the unconscious victim fell to the street, he reportedly struck his head on construction debris.

Ryan is white, 6-feet-1, and 175 pounds. He has brown hair, brown eyes and a tattoo of the word "MOB" on his right forearm.

Dontez Stewart, 19, address unknown, for armed robbery and related offenses.

On June 9 at about 10:45 p.m., Stewart contacted a friend to ask for a place to stay because, he claimed, he had been thrown out of his mother’s house. The victim picked up Stewart at Broad Street and Hunting Park Avenue and brought him to his apartment on the 1500 block of Devereaux Ave.

Once inside the apartment, the suspect allegedly called an accomplice by telephone. A short time later, a masked man arrived at the apartment, pointed a gun at the resident and threatened to shoot him. As the victim fled the building, the suspects allegedly stole a cell phone, a platinum ring and a pair of pants with a combined value of over $2,000.

Stewart is considered armed and dangerous. He is black, 5-feet-7, and 145 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes.

Wayne Wright, 22, address unknown, for robbery, assault and related offenses.

On April 25, at about 1:20 p.m., Wright allegedly waited outside an ex-girlfriend’s home on the 6400 block of Lawndale Ave. When she returned with the couple’s 2-year-old child, he allegedly punched her in the stomach, stole her cell phone and handbag and broke out all of the windows in her car.

Wright is black, 5-feet-6, and 140 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes.

Is This Life Blog Officially Endorses Raj

The Is This Life Blog has officially endorsed Raj Peter Bhakta. Their endorsement contrasts Allyson Schwartz with Raj’s commitment to reform.

Then be it known to all that the TrekMedic, as part of the Red November Initiative to keep American safe and in the hands of Republican leadership, hereby endorses Raj Peter Bhakta for the United States Congress for the 13th Pennsylvania District!