Binary Bandits

Binary Bandit’s heart grows 3 sizes; 83 1s and 0s returned to Kensington home

It’s a very Philly spin on the Grinch(es) who stole numbers from houses.

Meghan Haley picks up a zero that was one of dozens dropped on her porch early this morning.

Meghan Haley picks up a zero that was one of dozens dropped on her porch early this morning.

Anna Orso/Billy Penn
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The Binary Bandits’ hearts must have grown three sizes yesterday.

You remember the bandits? Back in September, there was a string of thefts in East Kensington in which at least two people were walking around the neighborhood, prying 1s and 0s off the front of residents’ homes. The spree went on for at least a month.

So, in a fitting (one might say Seuss-ian) conclusion to what became one of the most bizarre Philadelphia stories of the year, an unknown man last night placed a white trash bag on Meghan Haley’s stoop on the 2200 block of Amber Street. Inside was 83 numbers — 56 1s and 27 0s. One of the black zeroes actually belongs to Haley, even though and she and her husband have since replaced their missing number.

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Clearly, the person knew what they were doing. It was Haley who first released surveillance footage of the man-and-woman duo who went around the neighborhood ripping 0s and 1s off the front of homes for some unknown reason. Neighbors and victims of the thief guessed that maybe he or she was working on some sort of art installation.

Maybe the person was done with the numbers. Maybe a Good Samaritan simply found them and returned them. Or maybe the Binary Bandit was just starting to feel some remorse. Either way, below is what happened around midnight last night on Haley’s front stoop. You can see in the video that the person actually walks by Haley’s home just after midnight, then turns around and lays down the bag.

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This morning, when Haley’s husband Sean Mundy was on his way out the door to go to work, he noticed a white trash bag sitting on his porch. Haley was standing behind him, getting ready to take their two dogs on a walk. Mundy assumed the bag was just trash, but he opened it up and, to his disbelief, the bag had another gift inside — and that one was filled with those 83 metal address markers.

“[Mundy] turned and said ‘it’s the 1s and 0s,’ and I couldn’t believe it,” Haley said this morning. “The world stopped. I thought there was going to be no end to this story. I kind of freaked out inside for a second.”

Here’s the surveillance footage of Mundy discovering the bag (in which you can almost tell the exact moment he realized what he was looking at):

For now, the numbers are strewn about on Haley’s kitchen table, and she’s in the process of getting in touch with police to figure out what the next steps are. She’s using rubber gloves to carefully handle them, as police have been working since September to identify who stole the numbers. Sgt. Jason Forsythe at the 26th District said in October that police were still investigating as “quite a few” tips and surveillance videos were trickling in.

The thefts were largely concentrated on the 2200 and 2300 blocks of Amber Street, the 2000 and 2100 blocks of East Susquehanna Avenue and the 2000 and 2100 blocks of East Dauphin Street, with some homes on the periphery of that area that were also targeted.

Today, Haley is just trying to figure out where the change of heart came from.

“Our first guess is he had some remorse, or used them as is finished. It could have been because of the holidays,” she said. “But we didn’t know why they did it before. So now there’s just more questions than answers.”

Police in the 26th District are recovering the stolen numbers and will begin contacting victims shortly. Anyone interested in possibly recovering their stolen number can contact the 26th District at 215-686-3260.