Notes from Jan. 22 Meeting w/Police about Armed Robberies & Shootings

 

Thursday, Jan 22 2015 at 7pm at the NLNA Community Center

More than 70 neighbors attended this month’s meeting, anxious to talk to police about the recent spate of crime incidents in and around the neighborhood. An increase in drug trafficking, several robberies at gunpoint, and 2 shootings have been reported in Northern Liberties and Fishtown in the last few months.

Regarding the January 3, 2015 2:15am shooting outside of The Gold Club at Front and Girard –

Sargent Massi from the 26th Police District* reported that this incident resulted from a fight that began between individuals whom they believe to have been patrons and/or employees of the Saint Lazarus bar on the SW corner, and ended up with an individual shooting into the crowd in the street. Video of the incident was provided to police by The Gold Club on the SE corner, the only business at the intersection that is cooperating fully with police.

*The 26th district responds to calls from the center line of Poplar Street northward. The 6th District responds to calls from the center line of Poplar Street southward.

Regarding the Methedone Clinic at 8th and Girard –

Sargent Massi said that the Goldman Clinic,the methadone clinic at 8th and Girard, is licensed to serve 750 people per day. When used properly to fight addiction, methadone prevents a “high” from heroin, discouraging its use. However, patients can circumvent methadone doses by using other drugs such as clonapin and blood pressure meds to get high.

The result is increased demand for abuse and illegal use of these and other prescription drugs, which has spawned a market for dealers, drug transactions, and criminal activity to take place in the streets and businesses surrounding the clinic – from 9th Street down Girard to the El stop at Front Street. Recent activity by police to shut down these activities on some street corners appears to have driven addicts and dealers onto some residential streets in Northern Liberties and Fishtown. Also affected is the Ramona Rodriguez Public Library branch at 6th and Girard, where neighbors have reported a marked increase in clinic patients and others loitering, and “nodding off” and otherwise creating an unsafe environment for children and others.

Police cannot emphasize enough that neighbors must call 911 if you observe:

  1. Individuals who appear to be “nodding off” or “high”
  2. Drugs being sold
  3. Fights or altercations
  4. Individuals who appear to be “casing” cars or residential doors
  5. Children who appear to be at risk, under the care of individuals who seem altered, non-responsive, or high

Neighbors in the NW part of the neighborhood complained that their 911 calls were being ignored. Sgt. Massi explained that the dispatch operator assigns a priority level to each call, and later in the meeting it was stated that police don’t always get full or accurate notice of 911 calls that 911 operators believe to be duplicates of prior calls.

Dispatch operators (who are not members of the police department) prioritize calls so that police can respond to serious crimes first. Of the situations listed above, only no.5 would qualify as a high priority, and even then only if the caller used the right terminology: “child in custody of a non-responsive adult” was the police’s recommended phrasing. However, your calls are important. Records of your calls help make a strong case for action by City offices.

When calling 911 for situations created by Clinic patients please do the following:

  • Keep a detailed record of the call.
  • Ask for and record the Operator’s Number.
  • Describe the situation in detail. Use the term “high”
    or “unresponsive adult.”
  • Along with the specific location and detailed description
    of the perpetrator and incident, mention your proximity to the Goldman Clinic at 801 Girard Ave, and your suspicion that the perpetrator is a patient.
  • If you or your neighbor make multiple calls, ask the operator
    if the previous calls were recorded. It’s important for the
    operator to properly record calls so that Stg. Massi
    can identify problem areas and make a case for action.
  • If the situation persists and you feel you need officers on the scene; call again.
    Say you want “a supervisor, for lack of service.” Sgt. Massi said that should raise the call’s priority and he should get word of it immediately. (Officer Massi asked neighbors to use their best judgement and not abuse this maneuver.)

Alleviating the problem of the Clinic will require effort and cooperation of neighbors, police, businesses, Council President Darrell Clarke (who had an aide present) and Councilman Mark Squilla (who was present), L&I, the City Health Department, and possibly the State Medical Board and/or the DEA. Police, and civic groups from the affected neighborhoods have begun to meet with the clinic to discuss enforcement of state rules regarding licensed methadone clinic.

Everyone at the meeting acknowledged that serving 750 addicts a day and maintaining quality of life in the neighborhood is unrealistic. While it appeared that shutting down the clinic was not an option, and likely would have a detrimental effect on public health, a consensus emerged that efforts should be made to shrink the clinic’s capacity. A comparison was made with a methadone clinic in East Kensington, which just went through a pitched battle with the community to increase its capacity from 150 to 300 – both numbers a far cry from Goldman’s 750.

Councilman Squilla spoke to the group about his recent “pill mill” legislation that addresses nuisance clinics. The Health Department can now investigate abusive practices, and potentially pull a non-compliant business’ license. Clinics are private businesses, and have been known to contribute to the problem by allowing addicts and doctors to abuse the system. Though Goldman is in Council President Clarke’s district, Squilla will be helping with this effort because his legislation might play a part in this effort. He will be working with FNA, NLNA, EKNA and SKCP.**

The NLNA, will read the new legislation and work with Squila’s and Clarke’s offices to take steps in applying it to the clinic. The NLNA also compiled a list of action items, many of which are included here. We will be disseminating a more organized version of the list soon.

Civics will need to involve L&I and President Clark for full and proper code enforcement along the Girard Ave. corridor, to address unsecured structures and other problem aspects.

FNA President Jordan Rushie is collecting email addresses from neighbors who live on or near the Girard Ave. corridor and are concerned or affected by this situation. Email email jordan@fishtownlaw.com to be added to the list.

Sgt. Massi requested the civic associations’ help in addressing security issues at the Library, better lighting with the City, and camera installations with SEPTA.

** Fishtown Neighbors Association, (FNA) Northern Liberties Neighbors Association (NLNA), East Kensington Neighbors Association (EKNA), and South Kensington Community Partners (SKCP)

Regarding recent spate of muggings involving handguns –

Sgt. Massi doesn’t see a pattern to these crimes. He believes some of the property crimes of late are connected to the ongoing fast pace of development. While Northern Liberties never stopped redeveloping, the easing of the recession has sped things up to their pre-recession pace; and development in Fishtown has taken off significantly as well.

Regarding private surveillance cameras –

Officer Todd Oandasan strongly urged neighbors to register their cameras with the City’s SafeCam program. It takes 5 minutes, and saves police hours of legwork in locating and contacting camera owners when the need to collect footage arises. By registering, the police DO NOT have access to your camera. Your contact info and location are simply added to a database.

Any video footage collected is controlled and released by the the detective divisions, not the local precincts.

Councilman Squilla proposed asking developers to install cameras in new construction. These requests could be added as provisos at by the zoning committee during our monthly zoning meetings.

Regarding Dog Walker Watch –

Officer Oandasan, and Pablo Mateo of the City’s Town Watch program introduced a new initative which trains dog walkers on safe town-watch practices. NoLibs Townwatch will partner with them and Friends of Orianna Hill Park (aka “the dog park”) to hold and promote a training focusing on how to avoid confrontations and call in criminal or suspicious activity.

Email nolibstownwatch@gmail.com if you’re interested in this training.

Thefts from autos are up. Police are finding that oftentimes cars aren’t locked and/or valuables are left in plain sight. NOTHING of value should be left in parked cars for any amount of time, whether hidden or in plain sight. Not only does this result in more thefts, it also draw more potential thieves to the area, and takes up officers’ time, which is at a premium given how stretched the police are.

Car windows are also being smashed to steal Handicap Placards. Neighbors are advised to write their plate number on their placard to prove that it’s been stolen if recovered by police.While you’re at it, jot down your plate number on your Car Battery, too, as these are being stolen es well.

Regarding Shanty Town developing under I-95

Unfortunately the issues above dominated the meeting and this wasn’t discussed. The NLNA is looking into how to deal with the problem. The inhabitants have been offered shelter by Project HOME, but so far have refused to leave. Neighbors and volunteers can clean up the area once the squatters leave, but the problem remains of how to dispose of mattresses left on-site. Because of the bedbug situation, the City will not take matresses unless they are properly bagged and sealed. Any volunteers?

Neighbors should continue to document issues, call 311, and record their Ticket Number. A history of calls will help strengthen the case for action by police and the City. If you observe ongoing or potential criminal activity – or any activity that would require police attention, even if it might not be an emergency – call 911 following the guidelines noted above.

And in other News –

Victory in defense of frivolous lawsuit filed by Aura. In August of 2013, after failing to secure a desired City license, Aura/Club Aura owner Marc Stein sued the NLNA, NLNA President Matt Ruben, NLNA board member and Zoning committee chair Larry Freedman, five individual neighbors, the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Captain and a Sergeant of the 6th Police District, and two web sites in federal court.

The suit, which the defendants and their attorneys regard as without merit and a SLAPP suite (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) has been resolved, in favor of the defendants on every count. As part of the victory, Stein entered judgment in the defendants’ favor, publicly acknowledged the lack of merit of claims in the suit, expressed regret at having made such allegations, and agreed to multiple operational regulations on Aura.

In addition, the resolution of the suit has resulted in a payout of a substantial amount of money, some of which is coming directly from Stein himself (the remainder is coming from the insurance policy of his former attorneys, who he fired late last year). Jordan Rushie, attorney for the NLNA, Ruben, Freedman, and the five neighbors, explained that this victory not only gets the defendants free of the suit, but also has cost Stein and his former attorneys significantly, sending a clear message that one cannot use frivolous lawsuits as a way to try to intimidate or silence civic associations and citizens.

Ruben added that the victory also was dedicated to friends and colleagues of the former Old City Civic Association, which recently was forced to dissolve after 30 years of operation because multiple frivolous suits had made it impossible for the Association to purchase Directors & Officers insurance.

Other announcements:

Annual NLNA Winterfest at North Bowl, Sunday, February 15, 2-6PM – details on the NLNA home page.

Activities Nights at the NLNA – games, potlucks, etc. – watch your email and the web site for more details

Next NLNA General Membership Meeting in late April, at the newly completed officers of Kieran Timberlake, 800 block of N. American Street – details forthcoming.

 

[Original meeting agenda:]

Please join the NLNA in welcoming the following presenters…

  • Officers from the 26th District will fill in neighbors about the 2:15am
    Saturday shooting on January 3, 2015 at Front and Girard. A coalition of community civics is partnering with police and SEPTA to address this nuisance El Stop location.
  • Community Outreach Officer Todd Oandasan also from the 26th, will speak about a new Dog Walking  /Town Watch initiative and other neighborhood policing issues.
  • Councilman Squilla  – Issues? Raise them!
  • Brandon Cornell* will tell us about The PGW Home Rebates Program which helps customers conduct a home energy assessment to correct issues affecting their home’s performance in several areas of efficiency. The program provides rebates toward energy efficiency improvements.
  • Philly Bike Share* with an update.

* Did not appear; will be invited back at a later date