The recent theft of a laptop and several USB drives from a Philadelphia elections equipment warehouse appears to be a random crime that was not motivated by the 2020 election, District Attorney Larry Krasner has confirmed.
“There were reports of someone trespassing or otherwise getting into a warehouse, and there were initially some concerns that this might be an effort to suppress the vote,” Krasner said at a news conference Wednesday. “The investigative information we have received from the Philadelphia Police Department indicates that is not the case, that what occurred in that situation appears to be more in the nature of an attempted property offense, rather than any effort to suppress the vote.”
Krasner’s comments were the first public confirmation that the preliminary police investigation into the incident at the City Commissioners warehouse in East Falls, where Philadelphia’s voting machines and other equipment are stored, indicates that the perpetrator of the theft did not intend to affect the election, as The Inquirer reported last week, citing police sources.
The City Commissioners rent the warehouse space in a building that also houses a gym, which reported having asked a suspicious man to leave hours before the laptop is believed to have been taken, the police sources said. There were no signs of forced entry, and the intruder may have entered through windows in the gym that were left open on the day of the theft, the sources said.
A Police Department spokesperson on Thursday did not immediately respond to a request for additional details, including whether investigators had identified a suspect or recovered the stolen items.
The investigation is ongoing, and a suspect had not been referred to the District Attorney’s Office for charging as of Thursday, Krasner spokesperson Jane Roh said.
“It does not appear to be related to the election or campaigns," Roh said. "It does appear to be related to a quote-unquote crime of opportunity.”
The theft came as the City Commissioners, who oversee Philadelphia elections, are under intense pressure while conducting an unprecedented election in the middle of a pandemic and a high-stakes presidential contest. As the largest city in what analysts say may be the most important swing state in the election, Philadelphia is facing national scrutiny that has been magnified by President Donald Trump and his supporters, who have sought to sow distrust in the integrity of every common form of voting.
Security concerns at the warehouse continued after the theft came to light. A reporter for WHYY’s Billy Penn, for instance, filmed a video of himself walking into a room where voting machines are stored without being stopped for several minutes. But now, officials say, the facility has been secured with security cameras and a 24/7 police presence, among other measures.
“There was no evidence that there was any damage to the machines or in the commissioners' ability to use them to conduct an election that will produce accurate results,” commissioners spokesperson Kevin Feeley said Thursday.
Mayor Jim Kenney said Philadelphians should remain confident in the city’s ability to conduct the Nov. 3 election.
“This matter should not deter Philadelphians from voting, nor from having confidence in the security of this election,” Kenney said in a statement.