Utility worker impersonators - Council looks to crack down

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MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer

City Council today held its first public hearing on an apparently rising crisis in Philadelphia – criminals disguised as utility workers knocking on the doors of seniors and robbing them.

Council’s committee on public safety is investigating a public awareness campaign to get the message out to older folks to be more mindful before they open the door to just anyone in uniform.

Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., who heads the public safety committee, said the most egregious impersonators are appearing as PECO, PGW or Philadelphia Water Department employees with a convoluted “need” to get inside the home. These impersonators then rob the victim, either by strong-arm or quietly, under the guise of doing work.

“A lot of it is a hard hat, a radio and a reflective vest,” said Frances Healey, special advisor to Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

“Older individuals are very trusting. Some people can con their way into the door. They’re not stealing PECO or PGW or PWD uniforms. Sometimes they just have the basics. The key here is being proactive, not reactive.”

A family was duped at the beginning of this month when two men posed as water department workers made their way into a home at 20th and Shunk streets in South Philadelphia and stole their valuables. City Council is investigating what it can do to mitigate crimes of this nature, which are difficult to prosecute because the elderly are often reluctant to testify.

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