Philly Police Pull a Strange Move After Rittenhouse Lululemon Theft

Plus, the return of Amy Gutmann.

The Lululemon store on Walnut Street in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of Philadelphia

The Lululemon store on Walnut Street in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of Philadelphia. Police responded to a theft at the Lululemon store last week. (Google Maps)

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Philly Police Pull a Strange Move After Rittenhouse Lululemon Theft

Because I sometimes write about crime in Philadelphia, I’m on the police department’s email list for media alerts. Public affairs officers use this list quite a bit to send out missing-person notices. Its other major function is to let the media know when assistance is needed to identify and locate suspects in crimes — typically major crimes or crimes that became more noteworthy thanks to news outlets and social media (read: Meatball) — and when arrests are made in major or prominent crimes.

So that’s why I was a little confused on Monday. That’s when the Philadelphia police department sent out a media alert about arrests in a theft at the Rittenhouse Lululemon. Police explained that last Thursday, an officer responded to a theft at the Walnut Street Lululemon store. According to police, the responding officer witnessed a woman putting clothes into the trunk of a car. Then she got in on the passenger side. The cop intervened. The woman ran off but was quickly apprehended, as was the man behind the wheel.

In the alert, police shared the names and ages of the arrestees. They shared the block in Port Richmond that one lives on. And, of course, police provided two mugshots of the desperate-looking suspects, because what’s a good crime story without desperate-looking suspects?

Surely, I thought, there must have been guns or other weapons involved during this Lululemon theft, right? Nope. Okay, but when the cop made the arrest, they found a bunch of fentanyl and guns in the car, right? Nope. Fine, but we’re talking about a ton of Lululemon merchandise here, right? This had to be a felony-level theft. Again, no.

Police say the value of the merchandise in question was about $1,000. That’s half the amount necessary to make a felony charge of grand larceny. And let’s be honest — if you’ve ever shopped at Lululemon, you know that $1,000 doesn’t buy you a very large quantity of stuff at the bougie store. This is a place that sells water bottles for about $50.

In the end, police charged the woman with three misdemeanors: theft, criminal conspiracy, and evading arrest on foot. The man is charged with theft and criminal conspiracy.

So why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this because it raises a couple of important issues.

First, many media outlets, sociologists, and scholars have realized the impact that crime coverage can have on society. It’s important to pick and choose what crime stories you’re going to cover and know why you’re covering them. And it’s equally important to consider how you cover those stories. Does every crime need to be written about? Certainly not. Many media outlets have also changed their policies for sharing mugshots of people who are merely arrested and not convicted of a crime, especially when the charges are relatively minor and non-violent. But some TV news stations still salivate when they see mugshots, and sure enough, Fox “All Crime, All the Time” 29 couldn’t wait to get its hands on the mugshots in question and tell the world about the alleged masterminds of this $1,000 theft.

But then there’s also this. In Philadelphia, there were 18,200 instances of retail theft in 2023 — a 28 percent increase over retail thefts in 2022. And 2024 isn’t exactly off to a good start. While almost every other category of crime is down in 2024, retail theft is still surging, with a 32 percent increase so far over this time last year.

So why on earth would the Philadelphia police department feel the need to alert the public of an arrest in a non-violent retail theft case when there are so, so many other retail-theft cases open? Sharing photos of suspects can serve a purpose, because it can help you catch a criminal. But what’s the point of sharing mugshots in a crime no one even knew had happened, and doing so four days after the incident? Is all of this because we’re talking about Lululemon in Rittenhouse Square and not some random corner shop outside of Center City? Or does this signal a new approach from the Philadelphia police department — to identify and publicly shame every person who is charged with stealing from a store?

I asked the Philadelphia police department to shed some light on what’s going on here. So far, they haven’t done so.

Remember Amy Gutmann?

The former Penn prez says she’s leaving her post as U.S. ambassador to Germany after just over two years.

Former University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann in her official United States Department of State photo

Former University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann in her official United States Department of State photo

In an internal memo, Gutmann told colleagues she was saying auf Wiedersehen so that she could be in the same country as her husband, Michael Doyle, a professor at Columbia. Doyle still owns a fancy-schmancy condo in Fitler Square, about a 10-minute walk from the edge of Penn’s campus. And Penn is still looking for a president after the whole Congressional debacle last fall. Plus, Gutmann is planning to come back stateside before the start of the 2024-’25 academic year. Just saying, Penn might want to look her up.

Abortion Is a “Money Laundering Operation” for Democrats

So says conservative Philly radio host Dawn Stensland-Mendte (yes, the wife of Larry Mendte, who I’m pretty sure is the only Philly TV news anchor to ever plead guilty to federal criminal charges that he hacked into his colleague’s email). And U.S. Senate candidate Dave McCormick seems to agree with her. If you’re into polls, incumbent Bob Casey currently holds just a wee lead over McCormick.

Local Talent

I’m always up to see the latest video from Childish Gambino (the rapper alter-ego of actor Donald Glover), ever since his video for his 2018 song “This Is America.” That video, and I don’t think I’m hyperbolizing here, is one of the best and most powerful music videos that’s ever existed and that will ever exist. So when I heard that Childish Gambino had a new video out, I naturally had to click. And to my surprise, the video for his new song, “Little Foot Big Foot,” features a cameo by none other than Philly’s own Quinta Brunson, of Abbott Elementary fame. Check out the full video here.

Speaking of Childish Gambino, he’s playing the Wells Fargo Center on August 21st. And who is his special guest? None other than Willow. As in Willow Smith, the only daughter of that guy from Overbrook High School. Tickets go on sale to the general public this Friday.

By the Numbers

37 percent: According to police stats, decrease in Philadelphia homicides so far this year, compared to the same time period last year. Armed robberies are down by about the same amount.

$50 million: Gift just given to CHOP for its upcoming 17-story research facility along the Schuylkill River. The cash comes from Temple alum Mitchell Morgan, founder of Morgan Properties in King of Prussia, and his wife and family. (The fam was on our Most Influential list last year.) Speaking of Temple and gifts, Temple alum Joyce Kean, a former Philly judge, and her husband just gave Temple Law $5 million.

0: Interest I have in Philly’s just-announced Fourth of July concert on the Parkway with Kesha and Ne-Yo. And judging by the social media reactions I’ve seen to this morning’s announcement, I’m not the only one who’s not exactly excited by this lineup. “Nobody have Jill Scott’s number?” wrote one commenter.

And From the New-York-Minute Sports Desk …

In last night’s opening game of the Phils’ road trip to the Mets, Bryson Stott singled and Edmundo Sosa doubled to lead off the second inning, and a Garrett Stubbs two-out single scored Stott. But the Mets evened it up in their half on back-to-back doubles, then went ahead 2-1 on a walk and a single off Cristopher Sánchez. Starling Marte led off the Mets’ third with yet another double, followed by a walk and a mound visit that resulted in a single, another walk, and one more run. Meantime, we were getting nothing more against lefty Sean Manaea. Sánchez didn’t help himself with an error that put a batter on in the sixth, and Seranthony Domínguez finished the frame.

With Manaea replaced by Jorge López, the Phils got within one in the seventh on singles from Sosa and Brandon Marsh and a Johan Rojas ground-out. A walk and a single in the seventh brought in Gregory Soto for Seranthony, and a Bohm error allowed a run. José Ruiz put the Mets down one-two-three in the eighth, bringing up the Phils’ last chance.

Stott kindly led off the ninth with a homer off Edwin Díaz, Kody Clemens got a pinch-hit single, and Phils fans in the crowd were on their feet. Marsh walked on four straight balls, bringing up another pinch-hitter: Kyle Schwarber, coming off his injured back. He … struck out. Stubbs at bat, and he popped up the first pitch. Whit Merrifield, who was 0-for-4, came to the plate and walked, just barely, as the ump ruled he didn’t swing at ball four. Up came Bohm, bases loaded, and he was hit by a pitch, tying the game. Holy shit. Bases still loaded, Bryce at the plate, and he … struck out.

Could Orion Kerkering hold the tie? A line-out, a ground-out, and three straight strikes. Extra innings again! Harper started at second and took third on a passed ball with Castellanos at bat. Casty walked — no, wait, review of the count, yep, it was a walk.

That brought up Stott, whose long fly scored Harper, but Clemens struck out, and Casty got caught trying to steal, bringing the Mets up again. On came José Alvarado, for three straight quick outs and the 5-4 win.

They’ll take more swings this afternoon, starting at 1:10. How incon-VEEE-nient.

All Philly Today sports coverage is provided by Sandy Hingston.