Overbrook: Tales of Philadelphia’s most wanted

A tiny stretch of Media Street in Overbrook seemed peaceful yesterday afternoon. Neighbors walking back and forth from the corner store greeted one another as school buses dropped off children to waiting parents. “It’s definitely a close neighborhood,” 12-year resident Tracy Nelson said. “Everybody knows everyone around here.”

“There’s a police station right around the corner – they come through here all the time,” his neighbor Ronald Curmety said, gesturing to a passing squad car.

But the noontime calm was deceptive – a two-block stretch of the street hosts the last known addresses for three of Philadelphia’s most wanted violent fugitives. There are 29 more within a five-mile radius.

“It’s not a good place,” said former resident Jules Edwards as she waited at the corner for her grandson’s school bus. One of her daughters still lives on the block. “We were walking up the street just the other day after getting off of the bus and two men were fighting each other. All we could do was yell, ‘Call 911!'”

“It’s getting worse – just look at the streets,” she said as she motioned to potholes in the ragged asphalt. “But everywhere is bad.”

The majority of the criminals fromthe Philadelphia Police Department’s 100 most wanted fugitives listare concentrated in West, Southwest and North Philadelphia. Theyare wanted for aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder.

Police released the felons’ names and photoson YouTube Tuesday,with plans to air the slideshow on Channel 64. “We’re trying to generate awareness and drive people to our site so they can help us solve crimes,” Lt. Ray Evers said.

“It’s not just about showing them on TV. People can view these slides whenever they want on their own time – in the leisure of their house, car, smartphone – and help us lock these people up.”

Suspects were chosen based on the nature of their crime plus the lack of leads detectives have uncovered concerning their whereabouts, according to Evers. “They’re definitely individuals we’re having a hard time finding,” he said.

The decision to publicize the fugitives’ information online and on television was originally announced by Mayor Michael Nutter in January as part of a citywide crime-reduction plan. But measuring the success of the initiative has not been easy – it has becomean additional layer of investigative police work alone, Evers said.

“We’re trying to keep track of how many people we take into custody are arrested based on tips, whether they were pulled over for a traffic violation or an officer recognized them as wanted, whether it was due to police work – we investigate all of this after an individual gets arrested,” he said.

He said that the measure already seems to be working. “We’re getting a lot of hits on YouTube,” he said. “I spoke to Homicide today and some people are already calling in reference to those photos – I’m not sure if any of those tips have proven to be fruitful yet, but it’s what we wanted.”