Purse snatcher targets women in Overbrook Park

Posted: February 27, 2014

Police say the man tends to strike early, choosing women walking to work or running errands. He comes at them from behind, mutters a threat, and sometimes brandishes a knife. He leaves with purses, wallets, phones - even groceries.

And police believe he has targeted at least eight women in and around Overbrook Park in the last month and a half.

Southwest Detectives Capt. John Przepiorka on Tuesday announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person behind a series of purse snatchings west of Morris Park in Overbrook that began Jan. 8 on the 1300 block of Pennington Road.

"He's kind of terrorizing the neighborhood," Przepiorka said. "We've been lucky that he hasn't hurt anyone."

Lt. John Walker of Southwest Detectives said police believe the man has been lurking at the edges of the park and waiting for unaccompanied women to walk by.

It's unusual for a string of purse snatchings to continue this long, he said - likely because the suspect "isn't getting much money" from the snatchings.

Still, Walker said, "he's very dangerous. He's got women by themselves in desolate areas, and he controls the environment."

In the Jan. 8 case, police said, a man approached a 52-year-old woman from behind, said, "Give me that bag or I'll shoot you," took her purse, and ran off.

The snatchings have become more violent, according to accounts of the suspect's eight victims. One woman reported that on Jan. 13, a man placed her in a choke hold. Another said the suspect brandished a knife as she carried groceries into her home Jan. 21.

On Jan. 24, there were two snatchings in one day - one involving a grandmother who was dropping off her grandchildren. "You don't want anything to happen to these kids," the suspect told her, and pulled out a knife, she told police.

On Jan. 29, a 28-year-old woman pulled away from the man and tried to run as he grabbed for her purse, police said. He tackled her to the ground on the 7500 block of Lansdowne Avenue, pulled out a knife, and pressed it to her neck. She gave him the bag, but he left the knife and a phone at the scene. Police are testing the items for fingerprints.

Afterward, for nearly a month, the purse-snatchings stopped. Police questioned a 15-year-old boy in connection with the robberies, but ultimately released him.

Then, on Friday, another woman reported being robbed at knifepoint on the 7500 block of Brockton Road. She gave police enough details about the offender for them to create a composite sketch - one that matched the description of the man involved in the previous robberies. Another robbery was reported on Monday.

Walker encouraged women to stay alert in the area and avoid walking alone - and call police with any information on the suspect, described as a man between 17 and 27, standing approximately 5 feet 6, with a slim build.

Anyone with information is asked to call Southwest Detectives at 215-686-3183.


awhelan@philly.com

610-313-8112

@aubreyjwhelan

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