The decision to install surveillance cameras at Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai after two prior instances of vandalism paid off when a 13-year-old boy was caught on tape throwing rocks at the synagogue on March 26.
Lt. Dennis Rosenbaum, a detective in the Philadelphia Police Department’s 15th District, said watching the video enabled police to track down the culprit, who confessed.
“I knew they had a video system because I had spoken at great length to Mr. Adler [synagogue President Malcolm Adler] about it following the second incident,” Rosenbaum said. “We sent out a digital video recovery unit.
“We went through three days of video from the last time someone had been in the synagogue Friday night [March 24]. We came up to a point Sunday afternoon [March 26] where two teenagers were sitting on a wall. One picks up some rocks and starts throwing them, then both take off on their bikes.
“Through the video, we were able to get a clear picture of the juveniles. A patrol officer and myself went out last night, and we were able to locate the rock thrower.”
While his accomplice has been identified, police had not apprehended him as of March 28, Rosenbaum said.
Preliminary charges filed against the 13-year-old — whose name was withheld because he’s a minor — include possession of an instrument of crime, criminal mischief and institutional vandalism.
As a minor, he cannot face jail time, but he could be sent to a juvenile facility, Rosenbaum said. In addition, his parents may be subject to making restitution for the $350 broken window.
The boy denied involvement in either of the previous rock-throwing incidents at the synagogue in the Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia, which broke windows on Dec. 2 and Jan. 6, Rosenbaum said.
He further claimed he was unaware he was vandalizing a religious institution and that his actions were not meant as any sign of disrespect toward Jews.
Adler was skeptical.
“On Tyson Avenue there are lots of churches, but nobody’s had any breakage of windows but us,” he said. “When the D.A. has a hearing, I’d like to come and talk to the parents. I want to tell them they need to do a take better care of their kid. You’re talking about a 13- to 14-year-old. They’ve got to be doing better.
Adler said he hoped the fact the perpetrator has been identified will serve as a deterrent.
“We hope they’ll realize the security camera works 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “We were able to see a very clear picture of the individual. We saw the freckles on his face.”
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