A Philadelphia man has been arrested for allegedly taking part in a carjacking ring that struck "numerous" times in the city and surrounding area in recent weeks, and officials said other people are still being sought.
Jonathan Akubu, who has been arrested at least seven times in the past, including for a few violent crimes, has been charged with carjackings that involved murders of two men earlier in February, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
Carjackings have spiked in Philadelphia, as well as other big cities across the country, since early 2020. Philadelphia homicide chief said Akubu was likely involved in a ring that involved as many as six others.
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"We're not talking about groups like the mafia where they have this hierarchies," city homicide Captain Jason Smith said. "Mr. Akubu could have been operating with two individuals in one carjacking, then three or four others in another."
He added that the Akubu ring is not the only one operating in Philadelphia.
"I would say there are several carjacking rings operating in the city at this time," Smith said. "That’s why we’re taking this so seriously."
There have already been 203 carjackings in Philadelphia through Feb. 22. That's a huge increase from the 78 carjackings through the same date in 2021 and 34 through the same date in 2020, according to statistics provided by the police department.
Mayor Jim Kenney, who attended the press conference, said the police department has created task forces specific to carjackings and gun violence that are working in cooperation with federal authorities to stop the increase in violent crime the last three years.
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"For all those who wish to sow chaos in our city, let today be a message that we simply cannot and will not accept these acts of violence," Kenney said.
The two murders that Akubu has been charged with are the Feb. 6 deadly shooting of George Briscella during a botched carjacking on Afton Street in the Rhawnhurst section of Northeast Philadelphia. The 60-year-old man was visiting his mother at the time. An arrest in that case was previously announced over the weekend.
The ring is also being linked to a Feb. 12 deadly carjacking along the 8100 block of Grovers Avenue in the Eastwick section of Southwest Philadelphia.
Over the past several months there have been dozens of carjackings reported throughout Philadelphia. Police could reveal how many of those car thefts are linked to the ring and announce charges.
There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.