Chief Bill Heim: 'It is times like this when the RPD is at its best'

City detectives investigating 5 homicides since June 1

Chief: 'It is times like this when the RPD is at its best'

READING, Pa. - The deadly shooting of a man in Reading early Wednesday morning brings the number of homicides committed in the city over the past month to five.

Residents in the city said they are sick of the violence and many are crying out for change.

"I just want it all to stop," said Mara Ortiz, who spent her entire life in Reading. "It's scary, especially if you have kids and you hear something because you're quickly calling your family to make sure it is not them and make sure everyone is OK."

One of the five homicides appears to be justified, with a witness taking action last week to stop the attack and robbery of another man on South 13th Street, police said.

The others, all still unsolved, appear to be unrelated to one another except for the proximity of the time span, said Chief Bill Heim, Reading Police Department.

"One homicide is a tragedy, five is something the community and we are very concerned about," Heim said. "These are not random incidents. There is no reason to believe that this spike in homicides is caused by any escalation of underlying factors, such as gang rivalries or drug organizations."

The RPD, Heim said, is using its real-time crime-mapping system to adjust its patrols to areas that are experiencing crime and disorder problems and deploying more officers on bicycles.

"Officers on bikes can quickly check out alleyways, walkways, trails and other paths that can lead to the discovery of acts of disorder, quality of life violations, and crimes in progress," Heim said.

A key piece for detectives investigating the recent homicides is witness information. Heim said anonymous tips can be reported to Crime Alert Berks County, which offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. The toll-free number to call is 877-373-9913. Information can also be reported directly to Reading police at 610-655-6116.

Heim said his department has been working around the clock to solve the recent homicides, stressing that each victim is important to investigators, no matter the circumstances or any criminal past of the victim.

"It is times like this when the RPD is at its best; with dedicated investigators and officers working long hours, making sacrifices in their personal lives, and adjusting their schedules to meet the needs of the community and its safety," Heim said.

June 1: Saxxon Hopkins, 20, of Exeter Township, was found shot to death in the 1100 block of Mulberry Street.

June 11: Brock Neely, 27, of Reading, was one of two people shot in the 200 block of South 11th Street. Neely died.

June 21: Luis Rosario, 22, was shot to death near his home in the 400 block of Schuylkill Avenue.

June 27: Christopher Vasquez, 24, was shot and killed while allegedly assaulting another man in the 200 block of South 13th Street. The shooter appears to be justified in his use of deadly force, officials said.

July 2: Victorio Ayala was shot and killed during a home invasion in the 100 block of West Elm Street.

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