Cops: Thief targeted Academy of Music, Art Institute and Independence Visitor Center

His targets read more like a tourist’s day trip to Center City than a thief’s hit list and his plan was more calculated than crazy.


But 26-year-old Christopher Keiter — who posed as a fire inspector so he could burglarize the Academy of Music, the Independence Visitor Center and the Art Institute — was foiled by none other than himself, when he checked in to security desks at two of his targets under his own name, according to police.

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Christopher Keiter (Photo: Philadelphia Police)


Keiter’s high-brow burglary spree began on Jan. 3 when, at around 11 p.m., he went to the Academy of Music at Broad and Locust streets wearing a Philadelphia Fire Department shirt and carrying a hand-held radio, police said.

He told the security guard his name was Christopher Keiter and that he was there to inspect the building’s fire extinguishers, according to police. The security officer walked with Keiter through the building but lost him at some point.


While alone, Keiter was able to access the theater where he allegedly took a Toshiba computer, a pair of Sony headphones and a radio that had “Les Mis” written on it.


The following day, at around 7:20 p.m., Keiter went to the Independence Visitor Center at 6th and Market streets, again posing a fire inspector, police said.


He told a member of the janitorial crew that he was there to inspect fire extinguishers. In his 28 minutes inside the building, Keiter allegedly took a Motorola hand-held radio worth $2,500 from the concierge desk and a wireless microphone worth $639 from a second-floor meeting room.

Keiter laid low for a few days, but around 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 8, he reemerged at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, on Chestnut Street near 16th, again posing as a fire inspector, police said.


This time, he upped his ruse by pulling at least 20 tags from fire extinguishers throughout the building, telling the building manager that they needed to be replaced or he’d be fined, police said.


While in the sixth floor lobby, near the equipment cage, Keiter told everyone he was going to spray something in the air and everyone had to leave, according to police.


The employees complied and when they returned, they found two laptop computers missing from the equipment cage, police said. Keiter was missing too.


But it wasn’t too hard to find him, police said, because he’d signed his real name in the visitor’s log book.


On Thursday night, police executed a search warrant on Keiter’s room at the Parker-Spruce. He was charged with impersonating a public servant, theft and trespassing.

 
It’s not the first time Keiter has faced such charges.


He has at least a dozen arrests dating back to 2007 in Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery counties, as well as in New Jersey. He’s been charged with impersonating a public servant three times before and in January last year, he was charged with stealing a $3,000 fire radio from the Norriton Fire Company, according to online records.

Court records also show Keiter has previously been ordered mental health and drug counseling.

Contact Stephanie Farr at farrs@phillynews.com.

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