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Snowstorm Keeps Criminals From Their Work

January 11, 1996

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Crime is taking a snow day on the East Coast.

Police from Boston to Washington reported drops in almost all categories of crime since Sunday’s blizzard. Philadelphia lasted 60 hours without a murder. New Yorkers waited three days before the killing resumed.

Officers did deal with a surge of emergency calls, but almost all involved car trouble or motorists fighting over scarce parking spaces.

The deterrent? A heaping pile of snow that smothered the East Coast and snowed in the criminals.

``We’re thankful for any help we can get from God or man in our fight to reduce crime,″ Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Neal said Thursday. ``And who knows? Maybe nature can teach people the senselessness of pitting man against man.″

No homicides were reported in New York from early Sunday evening to late Wednesday night. The city averaged about three a day in 1995. Reports of robberies, burglaries, car thefts and other serious crimes also were down.

``All the guys made it into work, but there wasn’t a lot to do,″ said Lt. Ray Ferrari, commander of a New York City detective squad. ``We caught up on paperwork.″

After the blizzard died and life began returning to normal, the killing resumed. Four men, including a livery cab driver, were shot to death from 11:30 p.m. Wednesday and 9:20 a.m. Thursday in New York City.

In Philadelphia, where a record 30.7 inches of snow fell, no one was killed from Saturday until late Monday, when Tammy Brown was caught in the crossfire of a drug shooting. Two more have been killed since then.

``There was a hiatus there for about 60 hours,″ said Philadelphia Homicide Inspector Jerrold Kane. The city averages 1.2 homicides a day.

Eight people were robbed in Philadelphia Wednesday. The normal total is 15 to 25 robberies, police said.

Violent crime in Washington also dropped 14 percent last weekend, deputy police chief Charles Bacon said. In Baltimore, serious crimes decreased by 23 percent in the first 10 days of January.

Boston police have spent most of their time on service calls, towing illegally parked cars, responding to health emergencies and breaking up fights over parking spaces, spokeswoman Tracy Wyse said.

``Cops have always said that the weather is their best friend,″ said Sgt. Fred Seklecki of Holyoke, Mass., an industrial city with a high crime rate.

Some police officers have taken advantage of the snowbound by serving fugitive warrants. In Washington, D.C., one man wanted on several warrants was arrested in a crack house where he was taking shelter on Monday.

The storm also snowed in would-be thieves in smaller cities and towns.

Harrisburg, Pa., where 28 inches of snow fell, reported no burglaries since Sunday. Nearby York, which got 3 feet, had no muggings or car thefts.

``Everybody’s too tired from shoveling. They don’t have time to create mayhem,″ said Harrisburg police spokesman Randy King.

The snow also can keep smarter criminals indoors. Maj. Cornelius Hairston, a Baltimore public housing officer, said he knows from his 14 years on the force that criminals are wary of leaving tracks.

``These guys know it is hard for them to get away because of the snow prints,″ he said. ``You can follow them to the suspect’s home.″

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