Philadelphia police say they have arrested two men in connection with a string of armed robberies affecting Latino-owned businesses in the Feltonville’s Wyoming Avenue business corridor. Police are still working to identify and charge a third suspect.
Omar White-Davis, 28, and Acia Moore were arrested Thursday and face charges that include robbery and firearms offenses. The men are accused of conducting 13 separate robberies, some just hours apart.
White-Davis and Moore allegedly robbed at least two businesses more than once, according to police.
» READ MORE: Latino-owned businesses in North Philly are seeing a rash of armed robberies: ‘It was really traumatic’
At a news conference Tuesday announcing the arrests, police said they were able to apprehend the suspects thanks to business owners in the area banding together, video surveillance, and neighbors who called in tips.
Business owners were initially critical of the response from authorities, complaining of long wait times when calling 911. Police said they increased patrols along the business corridor since the robberies were reported.
Giselle Poveda, the owner of the restaurant Cafe Tinto, said she was thankful for the increased police presence after her business was targeted twice, but she hoped it would be more than a temporary response and could instead be the first step in long-term relationship-building.
“We would just like to maybe have them come into our store, talk to us so that we know that they’re actually present, because most of the time we’re inside working and we don’t know what’s going on outside,” said Poveda.
Authorities acknowledged there was still work to do in gaining the community’s trust, adding that they could have acted sooner had six of the initial robberies been reported.
“Our reaction is based on knowledge on what we know that’s occurring, and if these incidents go unreported, then we can’t put that presence that we did once we found out,” said 25th District Capt. Javier Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said there’s often initial hesitancy to report crimes among communities where English isn’t the primary language or where legal status is a concern.
“Doesn’t matter where you are, whether it’s here, West Philly, Northeast Philadelphia, your status does not matter,” said Rodriguez. “If you were a victim of a crime, you need to report it to us.”
For now, the police have sent their community relations officer to educate businesses on ways they can avoid becoming a victim whether it means making sure their security cameras are working, keeping low amounts of cash in their registers, and firearms safety.
While store owners are within their right to arm themselves, Rodriguez said no one wants an innocent person to be injured or a weapon to be used against its owner.
Community leaders are helping in those education efforts to connect newer businesses with security cameras at a reduced cost. Meanwhile, Poveda said business owners have started a group chat where they can air concerns.
Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez expressed high hopes for collaboration between the Feltonville business owners and police, who are continuing to meet as part of an awareness campaign.
“This is a close knit, business community, immigrant, small business community, and we wanted to stand with them and let them know that they were not by themselves and that we were here to serve them,” she said.