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Illegal Immigrant Burglary Gang Arrested in Radnor, One Suspect Still on the Lam

Three illegal immigrants from Argentina were arrested for burglary in Radnor last week, while a fourth alleged gang member escaped police.

Radnor Police Superintendent Chris Flanagan said Abington Police had alerted his department to suspects driving around upscale neighborhoods and breaking into homes.

Flanagan said the burglars used a “high-tech” device to disable alarm systems and ring the doorbells of homes they were targeting. Residents of a house on the 500 block of Huston Road were home at the time of the break-in but were not harmed, police said.

Matis Sanchez-Diaz, 30; Miguel Guzman-Pardo, 43; and Yanara Venegas-Rodrigues, 23, are charged with burglary, criminal trespass, loitering and possession of instruments of crime, police said. All three are in the U.S. illegally after overstaying tourist visas.

They are in George Hill Correctional Facility and held on $200,000 bail. A fourth suspect remains on the loose. The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office did not respond when asked if the defendants would be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). A spokesperson for ICE did not return calls.

Radnor police were notified by Abington Police about the suspected burglars on Jan. 19. At 5:35 p.m. that day, they responded to a burglar alarm malfunctioning at a house on Huston Road and noticed a rear glass door had been forced open.

They stopped a car that was driving less than a mile from Huston Road and found burglary tools and the alarm jammer, police said. The vehicle is believed to have been involved in various burglaries in the area, including in Lower Merion, through license plate reading technology in Radnor Township.

Officer Stephen Henry stopped the car when Henry and other officers noticed broken glass in it, similar to the glass from the broken door. They arrested the three defendants.

A fourth suspect, Alejandro Vincento Gallardo, escaped. Police described him as a Latino male, about 5-foot-tall and in his 20s. He was wearing a black jacket and black pants.

He was last seen running in the area of north I-476. If you see him or have information about his whereabouts, please call the Radnor Township Police at (610) 688-5600.

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Carjackings Soar in Philly, Not in the Suburbs — Yet

Carjackings have become an epidemic in Philadelphia.

The numbers tell the story. In the past three-plus years, carjackings within the city have risen from 224 in 2019 to 840 last year. As of February 7, there had been 154 carjackings so far this year, an average of better than four per day. If that trend continues, the city will be on pace to record nearly 1,500 carjackings in 2022.

Concerns have arisen about the carjackings and associated violent crimes spilling over into adjacent communities.

Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub says he is not seeing that happening, at least not yet. Part of the reason is the fear of tougher enforcement and the likelihood of jail time.

“I hate to put this out into the universe for fear of a jinx,” he said, “but we have not seen an increase so far. I’m hoping that remains the case.”

The Delaware Valley Journal asked Weintraub what he believes is causing the spike in carjackings beyond Bucks County’s borders.

“I think there’s just an air of permissiveness or laxity in certain jurisdictions that do not exist here in Bucks County,” he said. And hopefully, without trying to take too much credit that’s not due, the message has been conveyed pretty loudly and clearly, that if you’re going to commit a crime of violence in Bucks County we will investigate you, we will arrest you, and prosecute you and send you to jail for a long time.”

Weintraub says he believes criminals understand the ramifications of being charged with a violent crime in Bucks County.

“There certainly is an underground communication network among the criminals,” he said. “They know where the borders are, and there are some by chance that comes across borders. We have some of our own criminals to deal with in Bucks County, but we have not been negatively impacted by spillover from counties with lesser enforcement.”

Former Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan shares Weintraub’s view that the carjacking issues plaguing Philadelphia have not spilled over into surrounding communities, at least for now.

“We don’t have anywhere the volume of carjackings that they are having in Philadelphia,” he said. “However, it is starting to become a problem. It is a problem mostly in the areas that immediately border Philadelphia.

“The reason it is not a problem in the collar counties so far is the criminals don’t pay that much attention when they’re very close to a border, (but) they definitely know the difference between when they’re in the heart of Montgomery County and when they’re in Philadelphia. And they know if they get caught carjacking in Philly, there is going to be very little penalty. If they get caught carjacking in any of the collar counties, they’re going to state prison for a really long time.”

Hogan says he believes carjackings are spiraling in Philadelphia for two reasons.

“The carjackings are being used for drive-by shootings,” he said. “You jack the car when you’re about to do a drive-by because you certainly don’t want to do it in your own car; surveillance will pick it up. And the other reason they are carjacking cars is that they are always running from the police.

“And Philly has a pretty strong no-pursuit policy. So, what they’re going to do is, they’re going to run from the police in these carjacked cars, and then they’re going to ditch the car.”

Patrick Molloy has spent his entire career in law enforcement in Abington Township. He has been the township’s chief of police since February 2018.

“We’ve had three carjackings (recently),” he said. “They range from back in mid-November until just this past Sunday afternoon. One was in North Hills, one was at the Willow Grove Mall and the last one was in Jenkintown by the Acme.

“I’ve been here 28 years, and I don’t remember any carjackings in my career,” he said.

Molloy says closing classrooms in response to COVID-19 contributed to the problem.

“I think a number of issues may be converging,” he said. “Not the least of which would be the fact that we have a bunch of juveniles who should have been in school and had informal guardians in the high schools and middle schools keeping tabs on them or helping them out. We have a bunch of idle kids who are supposed to be in front of a computer, going to school.

“I think the second thing is this new bail reform which has sent a message that despite having a violent crime committed, or committing a crime with a gun (suspects), oftentimes receive low cash bail to no cash bail,” Molloy said.

“You see a backlog in the courts because of COVID. And the backlog is having people who should have been in court and receiving their sentences or some kind of probation or monitoring from the criminal justice system, that’s not happening,” said Malloy.

In contrast to Philadelphia’s no-pursuit policy, Molloy says his officers will pursue a carjacking suspect, but not at the risk of public safety.

“We have a risk matrix where it comes to pursuits,” he said, “and certainly nothing is worth a third-party innocent victim getting T-boned because we’re chasing somebody for a property crime, or it just doesn’t fit within our policy. There are a number of variables that take place when we’re making a decision.

“We will pursue, that’s partially correct, but we also don’t advertise the fact that we’re going to terminate that pursuit because the risk of injury to the public outweighs the benefit of apprehension,” he said.


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Two Neighboring Townships, Nonprofit Unite to Manage Stormwater in Jenkintown Creek

From a press release

While Walt Whitman once penned “good fences make good neighbors,” stormwater knows no boundaries. Such was the case for the Jenkintown Creek that runs through Abington Township and Cheltenham Township.

Since 2014, the Jenkintown Creek has been a priority focus area for Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership (TTF) restoration efforts. One of TTF’s recent projects along Jenkintown Creek is the Conklin Recreation Center project, which is also part of Cheltenham Township’s Pollution Reduction Plan.

“An agreement was negotiated with Abington Township crediting Cheltenham for treating Abington’s stormwater by way of this project,” said Robert Zienkowski, Cheltenham Township Manager. “Cheltenham Township is a founding member of TTF and has a longstanding relationship working with TTF and other partners on water quality and stormwater management issues.”

A volunteer plants a new tree.

The restoration removed 235 feet of straight, piped concrete in order to let the Jenkintown Creek flow freely through the constructed wetland. With the TTF watershed being 98 percent developed, it has been difficult for communities to manage stormwater in the area. As communities develop and build, there is less ground to absorb stormwater; however, the Conklin Recreation Center restoration alleviates some of these issues.

In the fall of 2019, construction began to remove the piping next to the Charles D. Conklin Jr. Pool and Recreation Center in Cheltenham Township. Next, the stream had to be rerouted into a zig-zag pattern that follows the natural lay of the land. In addition to allowing the water to flow freely, this design prevents erosion as it slows the flow of water against the banks. Sediment can also drop out of the water into the creek bed to reduce pollution.

The COVID-19 pandemic put the project on hold until the following year. In the fall of 2020, volunteers planted flowering and ground-covering perennials, large grasses, shrubs and trees, on the banks of the newly restored tributary. The plants keep soil from eroding, hold in moisture, and prevent trash from entering the creek.

“The now naturally flowing Jenkintown Creek and wetland planted with native, deep-rooted plants not only improves water quality, it creates habitat in addition to slowing down and cleaning 40 acres of stormwater,” said Julie Slavet, Executive Director of TTF. “There are now fish in the creek, and more bees, birds, and butterflies visit, turning this site into an outdoor environmental classroom.”

In addition to making the area more environmentally friendly and visually appealing, the freely-flowing creek is much safer than the pipe, which had fast-moving water and ditches of dirty water.

Water in the Jenkintown Creek comes mostly from rain running off of more than 40 acres upstream in Montgomery County, including roads, residential properties, condominium complexes and commercial properties. This $183,662 project and others in the watershed impact the Tookany Creek, which flows into Tacony-Frankford Creek, and then connects into the Delaware River.

“This new green stormwater infrastructure improves the water quality of 42 acres of developed drainage area around the rec center, which had been directly discharging to the Jenkintown Creek,” said Anne Leavitt-Gruberger, administrator for the Montco 2040 Implementation Grant Program and manager of the County Planning Section of the Planning Commission. “This project directly ties to township goals as well as goals explicitly laid out in the county’s comprehensive plan.”

TTF and Cheltenham Township designed and managed the project, which was funded by the Montgomery County Planning Commission and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Temple University also partnered up with TTF and Cheltenham to develop the project’s concept and proposal, and provided assistance with water quality monitoring.

A ribbon cutting at the Charles D. Conklin Jr. Pool and Recreation Center was held on June 19, 2021. Many community members attended the event, including Cheltenham Township Ward 7 Commissioner Irv Brockington.

“The community members and families enjoying Conklin Pool this summer offered many positive remarks about the project and the revitalized natural system,” said Brockington.


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