Philadelphia police uncover 10 stolen cars in chop shop bust under I-95 near PHL

Police say the suspects created a garage in the woods near South Road and Bartram Avenue.

Friday, November 10, 2023
Philadelphia chop shop under I-95 near PHL found after tip to police
Philadelphia police uncover 10 stolen cars in chop shop bust under I-95 near PHL

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia police believe suspects turned a secluded, wooded area off of South Road and Bartram Avenue into a chop shop -- and it all started with a tip.

"In that area, it's very sophisticated from what I'm told. There are multiple, we believe, stolen vehicles," said Philadelphia Police First Deputy Commissioner Frank Vanore.

Police said at least 10 vehicles, as well as many parts, were towed from the scene in Southwest Philadelphia on Thursday evening.

It's located under I-95 near the Philadelphia International Airport, on PennDOT's property.

"It's certainly something. We have to spend some time to figure out where people were bringing the stuff in [and] see if there is any other evidence we can recover," said Vanore.

Detectives already know the vehicles were stolen from across the region, including South Jersey. Some cars were stolen from the Philadelphia International Airport, Action News has learned.

Just four weeks ago, we reported that Sergeant Richard Mendez was shot and killed in the airport parking garage when he tried to stop a car theft. We don't know if the theft is connected with this bust.

The suspects were able to create a makeshift garage in the woods covered by a camouflage tarp, and they worked overnight based on the several lights inside.

Police found nearby dirt roads that were made through the brush, as if large trucks drove through the area repeatedly. Police also say the roads were made so cars could enter and exit the wooded area onto northbound I-95 and southbound Rt. 291.

Radiators, fenders, an instrument panel, and even a trunk were all that was left behind.

Chuck Cook, who has trapped animals in this area for 40 years, wasn't surprised to learn what was happening in this area.

"I've never even seen police in there. I thought maybe they found a body or something," he said.

Police said vehicle thefts have been a problem since 2020.

"There have been definitely a spike in stolen vehicles," said Vanore. "Certain areas are being hit harder than others in our northeast section of the city."

The Action News Data Journalism team found there have been nearly 25,932 vehicle thefts across Philadelphia over the last 12 months, that's three-and-a-half times the annual average over the last three years.

"But when we see an area like this where cars are being recovered, it helps us identify people and put a stop to some of what's going on," said Vanore.

Police have not made any arrests.

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