Police: Attacker targeting women in Society Hill

July 18, 2011 8:44:56 PM PDT
Philadelphia police are investigating a rash of brazen attacks on women in Society Hill.

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Investigators say these robberies have mostly taken place on smaller side streets in this general area at all different times of day and night.

The victims range in age from 25 to 73 years old.

The most recent attack took place just before 7:00 a.m. on July 10th at the corner of 8th and Lombard streets.

The victim, Crystal, tells Action News she was walking on her way to work.

"Next thing I knew I had two big huge, burly arms wrapped around my neck," Crystal said to Action News. "I was completely blacked out, I was drug on the ground, I guess, when he was trying to get my purse out. My teeth went through the back of my lip, the front of my lip. My knees were all skinned up and I had bruises all over my arms."

The attacker fled down a narrow street.

When he turned the corner onto Addision Street, he was captured on video surveillance as he discarded items from Crystal's purse.

She found it at the end of the block minus her valuables and cell phone which the attacker sold to someone who then stole her identity.

There've been five similar attacks between June 25th and this most recent one.

On Saturday, another assailant, who is still at large, grabbed a woman inside her kitchen near 9th and Spruce streets.

Action News spoke to another victim on Monday morning, who wanted to keep her identity hidden.

That victim said she was almost back to her home on a small Society Hill street on June 30th when she was attacked just before 5:00 p.m.

"All of a sudden it was like "wham!" An arm, a forearm, came under my throat and started choking me," she said.

She attempted to scream but nothing came out. She describes trying to fight, but feeling powerless and soon passed out. When she came to, her attacker was casually walking away with her backpack.

"I yelled at him 'Bring that back right now,' like any good mother would. He just turned and walked up another street," she said.

Women nearby, including the victim, say they're taking precautions like sticking to the busier streets.

"I feel much safer down on Broad Street than I do at my own home anymore, which is kind of sad," the victim said.

Witnesses have not been able to give a detailed description of the attackers which this victim can understand.

"Their main question was 'Did you get a good look at this guy?' Well, he's too smart for that. I didn't hear a thing, not a peep. I'm sure other witnesses said the same thing," the victim said.

Police say the woman's backpack was recovered in a nearby churchyard. He took less than $20 and a small camera, the rest of her items - like her lipstick and hat - were still in the bag.

She says, all in all, she feels fortunate that she walked away from this.

The police though are afraid the attacker might eventually kill someone.

"We had three that were choked unconscious, we had one female who hit her head and then became unconscious, we had three that were taken to the hospital," Philadelphia Police Captain Sharon Eaborough said.

Police have stepped up patrols in the area and they are hoping someone can tell them more about the man in the video, a man who's apparently capable of anything.

"Obviously, one without a conscious, that's why we want to bring him in," Eaborough said.

Action News is told police have learned the identity of the man in the surveillance video and he is now the target of their investigation. But, so far they have not arrested anyone.