POLICE in the Southwest Detective Division are on the hunt for a pint-size punk in connection with a series of brazen attempted gunpoint robberies in West Philadelphia.
The boy targeted five people, including this Daily News reporter, near 46th Street between Market and Chestnut from Monday night to Tuesday afternoon, police said.
One incident was reported Monday night, and four others unfolded between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The victims told police that the would-be robber looked to be about 12 or 13. In some instances, he asked victims for the time, then pulled out a silver handgun and demanded their belongings.
About 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, the boy followed this reporter around the corner from Chestnut Street toward Market, pulled out a handgun and demanded money. When told that the reporter wasn't carrying any cash, the boy hesitated, then turned to walk back toward Chestnut Street — where he had been talking with another teenage boy just before the attempted robbery.
In each incident, the boy walked away empty-handed, police said. No injuries were reported, except for a scraped knee that one woman, an aspiring neurologist, suffered as she ran away from the boy after refusing to give up her belongings.
Cops were unsure Tuesday whether the handgun the boy used during his failed robberies was real. "If it is, he sure as hell doesn't know how to handle it," said Detective Joe Murray.
Police said a baby-faced thug-in-training who pulls a gun on pedestrians in broad daylight five times in the same area is likely in the early stages of earning his street cred — which makes it even more important to stop his career as a criminal before it grows into something more sinister.
"At no point is he saying, ‘I shouldn't be doing this,'" Murray said. "If he's that young doing that, that's somebody we gotta get off the streets right now."
By Tuesday night, police had established a detail around the area to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.
The area has a relatively high level of foot traffic, with pedestrians walking to and from a Market-Frankford El platform on Market Street near 46th.
"Every robbery that goes by and nobody gets hurt, you feel lucky," Murray said. "But you won't keep on getting lucky."
Anyone with information on the incidents is asked to call the Southwest Detective Division at 215-686-3183, or text a tip to PPDTIP (773847).