Looting, vandalism slowing down, but Philly police say use of explosives on the rise

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Since the protests started in Philadelphia, Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said police have responded to 135 explosive events, including 50 that have damaged or opened ATMs.

“Most of these ATMs don't have money in them and it's not worth it,” said Outlaw. “It's not worth the injuries that we're seeing associated with this, and it's not worth the risk to the community and the danger that it's been imposing.”

While acts of looting and vandalism are slowing down, a troubling new turn is the increase in the use of explosives.

ATM explosions have been heard across North Philadelphia over the past few nights. One 24-year-old man died trying to blow one up outside a bar at Second Street and Susquehanna Avenue on Tuesday.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro believes he's gotten to the bottom of at least some of them with the arrest of Talib Crump for allegedly selling homemade sticks of dynamite out of his car.

“Mr. Crump, who bragged on social media that using dynamite was better than bullets for robbing an ATM, offered up explicit instructions on how best to set dynamite up to blow up an ATM,” Shapiro said. 

Shapiro said the investigation is ongoing so he can't say whether Crump had a role in all the explosions, but he thinks it's important that the racial justice message of the protesters is not hijacked by violent crimes of distraction.

She also credited extra resources from other agencies — both the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have joined the investigation into the explosions. 

Mayor Jim Kenney said the National Guard has also been helpful.

“In fact, residents should know they may see more of a Guard presence in neighborhoods over the next few days. They’re hoping to protect businesses and commercial corridors, which many of our businesses have requested,” he added. “This frees up the police department to support demonstrations, respond to 911 calls, and other critical responses.”

The mayor applauded the peaceful protesters, as well as the officers who have been kneeling with them.

Outlaw said she would “absolutely” kneel too, if she were out on the street.

For the fifth straight day, a citywide curfew goes into effect at 6 p.m. and lasts until 6 a.m. Thursday.

The mayor reminded residents that COVID-19 is still a danger, but he said numbers of new cases continue to fall, so he is hopeful about moving to the “yellow” phase as scheduled on Friday.