Police arrest city worker in South Philadelphia sex assaults

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Police have arrested a 37-year-old city worker in connection with multiple sexual assault cases in South Philadelphia.

He has been identified as Safien Williams of Point Breeze; he is a Streets Department employee.

Williams is charged with multiple sexual assaults that occurred between December and February.

Philadelphia Police Captain Mark Burgmann of the Special Victims Unit said, "We have DNA evidence on numerous of the crimes we are investigating. And we are checking now with forensic science to see if he matches those."

Police say after the video image was released, there was a wave of citizen tips over the weekend which led investigators to make an arrest.

Police say numerous people mentioned they recognized him from the videos.

And that led police to the Point Breeze house he shares with his mother.

Police had been searching for a man they believe to be connected to at least nine sexual assault incidents in South Philadelphia dating back to last December.

Video obtained by Action News shows the alleged serial attacker as he spots a victim last Thursday night on the 400 block of Mifflin Street.

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Search continues for South Philly sex assault suspect: as seen on Action News at 4 p.m., February 25, 2019

Police sources tell Action News that the person of interest was arrested at his Point Breeze home, about 12 minutes from the scene of the most recent attack.

"Yesterday afternoon about 4:40 p.m., we executed a search warrant at the offender's residence in the 2200 block of Earp Street. He was at home at the time. At that point, we took him into custody. We were able to search the property. We recovered some clothing that we believe he used during these assaults. We recovered his cell phone and two doors away in an abandoned property, we recovered the bike that matched the bike used during these crimes," said Captain Burgmann.

The arrest is welcome news for many who live in the area, fearful that they would be next.

"It would be a huge burden lifted off of South Philadelphia because everyone is in panic mode right now," said Carol Lanni of Taking Our South Philly Streets Back.

City leaders, police and a team from Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR) took to the corners in South Philadelphia on Tuesday night, where the alleged serial attacker once preyed on multiple women.

"We're canvassing, handing out information as to what is sexual violence and what are sexual assaults," said Johanna Rodriguez with WOAR.

Police say Williams had been in trouble with the law, but he was not involved in any sex crime.

He was a laborer in the Streets Department, but there is no evidence his job played a role in the alleged crimes.

Police believe there may be additional victims. There was an appeal for them to speak up regardless of immigration status.

"If you're not a resident of this country, don't worry about that. Don't worry about that. You're a victim. If you're a victim, come forward," said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross. "We have reason to believe that in some instances he may have preyed on people like this, whether intentional or unintentional. So we want to make sure we can get our arms around this entire investigation and know exactly who may have been preyed upon by this individual."

"We want them to feel comfortable and most importantly have the information and resources if they have been a victim," said Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.

Ross says the suspect may have victimized at least one undocumented immigrant.

"We have reason to believe that there could be others and we want to make sure that that's not an obstacle for people," Ross added.

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