Police held public meeting in Germantown, but nobody showed up
November 14, 2012By Fatia Kasumu and Zachary Martin
of Philadelphia Neighborhoods
"We need the community to be our eyes and ears by being a part of the town watch or Police District Advisory Council."
-- Synell Hall, community relations officer, 14th Police District
Officers with the 14th District held their monthly Police Service Area meeting at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Tuesday night, but it proved difficult to get their message out to the public.
That's because not a single resident showed up to hear it.
The non-existent turnout surprised Lt. Brian Murphy, one of three officers there, since these monthly PSA meetings normally draw several dozen residents.
"We try to space the [meetings] throughout the area," Murphy said. "I think it depends on the cohesion of the neighborhood. Some neighborhoods are very tight and other ones, not many people come out to the community."
Still, Community Relations Officer Synell Hall emphasized the benefits such meetings offer.
"We need the community to be our eyes and ears by being a part of the town watch or Police District Advisory Council," said Hall, a 16-year veteran of the force.
Crime update offered anyway
Murphy, who started in the Northwest Philadelphia district five years ago, said he thought crime and shootings are down from earlier in his career.
"It went from violent crime to more petty crime," Murphy said when the officers returned to the Haines Street district headquarters.
"We would get a shooting maybe once or twice a week, but now it's very rare," he continued. "What's popular now is theft from automobiles. It's ongoing and something we've always had problems with."
The neighborhood no-show discouraged St. Luke's caretaker John Childrey, who disagreed with a dropping-crime assessment.
He cited a lack of jobs coupled with decreased welfare support and noted that someone has even tried to break into the church before.
"You can't walk down Germantown Avenue day or night without looking behind your back for someone to stick you up," Childrey said.
Lesinette Ortiz, a crime prevention officer, described efforts to assist neighbors in taking preventative measures.
"We do security surveys and check windows, doors and entryways," said Ortiz. "I hand out bulletins to help residents prevent burglaries by knowing what to look for."
With Thanksgiving approaching, Hall said the focus has shifted to helping families during what can be a difficult time.
"We have families that are in need of turkeys," Hall said. "We are asking that anyone in need of a turkey basket to contact 14th District as soon as possible."
District officers will deliver the turkey baskets as part of the department's Operation Thanksgiving.
Fatia Kasumu and Zach Martin are students at Temple University. Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a NewsWorks content partner, is an initiative of the Temple Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.