By Howard Monroe

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Multiple Philadelphia police cars were set on fire across the city overnight. Now investigators are trying to figure out who set fires to at least four patrol vehicles.

The first incident was reported around 1:40 a.m. Monday at 11th and Vine Streets in Chinatown, which is right outside of the 6th District Police Headquarters. By mid-morning police were taping off the area and called it a crime scene.

The next call was minutes later at 7th and Chestnut Streets in Old City, which is also in the 6th District. Police say someone there tried to set a police van on fire.

The most significant damage occurred in the 18th District at 39th and Chestnut Streets in University City, around 2:30 a.m. Severe damage was visible to the front of the car and the windshield.

The final call to come in was at 39th Street and Lancaster Avenue, also in University City. The damage to that vehicle is minor.

The suspect in the fires at 39th Street and Lancaster Avenue and 39th and Chestnut Streets is described as a white male wearing a flannel shirt and backpack. Police say he was seen on surveillance cameras fleeing the scenes on a white Cannondale bike.

All four fires were set within an hour of each other.

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It’s not clear what type of devices were used to set the vehicles on fire, but in most cases, the fire was set in the front wheel wells.

No officers were hurt in any of the fires.

 

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw says the fires are now being investigated as arson.

“Quite frankly, it’s a slap in the face, you know? Especially at that time of the morning and our officers, regardless of how many times, whether there is an anti-police sentiment or a lack of support, we still get up, we go to work and we work very hard,” Outlaw said. “We’re human beings and I think people forget that. To damage the tools, or one of the tools, that we have available to us to not only keep us safe but in order to allow us to do our job, it’s a huge slap in the face.”

Police officers were advised by radio not to leave their vehicles unattended. Some officers took their patrol cars to garages.

It’s not clear if these incidents are linked to recent unrest in Philadelphia and across the country.

No arrests have been made.

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