Town Watch Patrol Sign-up and Police Q&A – Notes from the October 10 Meeting

On Monday, October 10 a small group of neighbors signed up to patrol the neighborhood.

The 26th District’s Sergeant John Massi (215-686-3260  John.Massi@phila.gov) and 6th District’s Crime Prevention Officer Lori Jackson (215-686-3063 Lori.Jackson@phila.gov) addressed the group. Together they answered questions and talked about the realities of crime in our neighborhood. Here are the highlights:

The Problem:

Philadelphia is the Heroin Capital of the U.S. This is not by accident. Opium addicts are attracted to Philly by carefully marketed, purified heroin. Law enforcement has made a large dent into the illegal trafficking of opiate pills. So, addicts turn to heroin. Once they are exposed to Philly heroin, they stick around for more.

The methadone clinics in the area attract 700 to 1000 addicts a day. Some, stick with the program and get clean. The rest wander the neighborhood for more drugs to re-create a heroin high.

Under the current administration, rock-solid evidence is necessary to charge and prosecute criminals. Your 911 calls, camera footage, and facebook posts can help police collect this evidence. (Please call 911 and report the crime before posting footage. Also alert your precinct about your post for additional guidance.)

The Criminals:

So it turns out that junkies commit most crimes in our neighborhood in order to get their next bag of drugs. All they need is just five to fifteen dollars. These are desperate people who are not acting rationally, and will troll for unlocked car doors, unlocked windows and doors to your house, poorly secured bikes, and anything else they can grab and sell quickly.

The Cops:

Police staffing is dwindling. Not only is recruitment down, but our district cops are pulled away to police parking lots during Eagles games, or to Manayunk* when there’s trouble with drunken bar patrons. Also, due to a national trend in cop killing, police are mandated to respond to calls in pairs, which also depletes available staffing.

*The NLNA has asked Congressman Bob Brady to speak to Mayor Kenny about this particular practice.

The Target:

The ascending affluence of Northern Liberties is drawing more and more junkies to break into our cars and homes to grab laptops, purses, backpacks, electronics, and bikes. These items are then quickly sold on the street, and the junkie gets their next fix.

The saturation of development in our neighborhood and Fishtown provides lots of construction sites where junkies can grab tools and scrap metal for quick re-sale.

The Filmore and surrounding venues, SugarHouse Casino, and our area’s huge selection of bars and restaurants draw thousands of unsuspecting patrons who park their cars, only to find their windows smashed, their car ransacked for as little as a cup holder of change.

Meanwhile, 991 calls from Northern Liberties are the lowest for both districts.

The Crimes:

Trash Cans – are stolen only to be resold for a few dollars to buy another hit of drugs. They’re also used to tote stolen goods. Police are asking residents to not only inscribe their address on the outside of the bin, but inside as well. This information can help police figure out where the perpetrator has been, and piece together crimes they have committed. Call 911 if your trash can gets stolen.

Thefts from Cars – Whether your car is locked or not; whether your laptop or purse is visible or not; your car may be the target of a desperate junkie. They will take anything they can, including small change in order to get their next fix. They will also watch as you “secure” your stuff in the trunk after you’ve parked. If you’re spotted doing this, you can be assured that your trunk will be empty when you return.

If you do not securely lock your glove box, it will be ransacked. Do not leave your registration and insurance card in the glove box. If your stolen car is pulled over for running a stop sign, the thief can show these documents to police and get away with just a ticket.

Call 911 if your car appears to be ransacked – even if it had been left unlocked.

Report street lights that are not working to both 911 and 311. Dark streets are prime areas for all crime.

Burglaries – Junkies are brazen enough to break into your home day or night, whether you’re there sleeping or not. Criminals prefer to break into your house through the back, especially at night. They will look for open or unlocked windows and doors. Your front or back door can be pried open if it’s not locked with a deadbolt. If they break in through your garage, they will enter your home through the interior connecting door. These doors are typically left unlocked, and criminals know it.

If your doors have glass panes, these will be smashed to gain entry. Police urge the use of double-keyed locks in these instances. (Do not leave the interior key in the lock, but rather keep it nearby and out of sight.)

Close your blinds or curtains at night. Thieves will “window shop” to see which homes are worth breaking into.

Alarm systems (when used properly) are best deterrent for break-ins when you are not at home. Be sure you use you alarm every time you leave the house. Be sure you know all of your passwords if the alarm is tripped. This includes the password that lets the alarm company know you are the victim of a home invasion. Also, you alarm company needs to know your cellphone number so that you can be located in the event of a break in. Make sure all of this information is up to date with your alarm company.

Cameras** are an important tool for catching and charging criminals. If you have cameras, be sure to:

  • Register your camera with the the SafeCam Program. This gives police a way to contact you if your camera may have recorded a crime. (The police do not have direct access to your camera through this program)
  • Provide a light source for your camera. Otherwise, images will not be detailed enough for police to use.
  • Learn how to operate your camera system. If you can help police collect the footage from your camera, you will decrease the time spent by police trying to figure it out.

**Businesses can get a %50 percent refund from the City for installing cameras. This may include your home if you use it as a business. Click here to check it out.

Thieves also like to operate under the cover of darkness. Police ask that you install “Dusk to Dawn” light bulbs which will automatically turn on and off depending on the time of day. Motion detector lights are less effective since thieves can work around them.

Robberies – Your phone is a prime target for a junkie, especially if you are walking alone at night and have it out. Whether you’re talking or texting, a thief can run past you, grab it, and be on their way. You can decide to chase them, and they can decide to either a) toss the phone into the street, or b) turn and attack.

Walking alone at night whether you’re male or female is a dangerous idea. Desperate junkies, who are not think rationally may attack you regardless of your gender – though solitary females are a primary target. Always be aware of your surroundings whether it’s day or night.

If you choose to jog at night, do not wear earbuds. Anything that distracts your attention from your surroundings is putting you in danger.

Calling 911: Police cannot emphasize enough that you must call 911
if you see ANY suspicious activity.

Too many people “don’t want to bother police” if they see a person checking door handles or looking into windows of homes. These people are most definitely thieves looking for opportunities to steal. Police want you to let them decide how your report fits into a larger crime picture that changes every day.

If you see anything at any time of day or night that doesn’t seem right, please report it to 911, and police will respond. These reports can be used by police to piece together the activities of a suspect that they may already have in custody. With your 911 calls and camera footage, police may have enough evidence to charge people with the crimes they are committing.

CLICK this link to read more about the specifics of how to speak to a 911 operator.

Police will come to your house if requested, but response times are effected by various factors. Here are a couple:

  • The nature of the call. If a crime is in progress or violent with bodily harm, police will respond immediately. If the crime has already happened, the response may take longer.
  • Distribution of personnel. As stated above, staffing is short, police are pulled from our district, and they are required to respond in pairs. Our neighborhood is split in half between the 26th District (north of Poplar) and the 6th District (south of Poplar).

The 26th District covers the area between Lehigh Avenue (north), 10th Street (west), Poplar Street (south), and the Delaware River (east).

The 6th District covers the area between Poplar Street (north), Broad Street (west), Lombard Street (south), and the Delaware River (east).

Such broad areas of coverage present different challenges for both districts, from gun violence in the extreme north to thousands of tourists in the south.

Also, know that the details of your 911 call needs to be sent to the police dispatcher (who  assigns the call’s priority), and then out to the patrolling officer. Time and information about the incident can be lost during these transfers.

One last thing: When asked whether it’s safe to be a witness against criminals who attack our neighborhood, Sergeant Massi said that he has never had Witness Intimidation happen in his long career over the types of crimes we are discussing here. Witness Intimidation is a felony. If this happens, the defendant is in a LOT more trouble than their original crime would have caused.

Please pass this info on to your friends and neighbors who live in Philadelphia.

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Town Watch Patrol Sign-up and Police Q&A – Mon, October 10

7pm at the  Northern Liberties Community Center, 700 N. 3rd Street (3rd & Fairmount)

Based on the high interest shown about the last meeting, we’re having another one!

This time sign-up for active patrols, and speak with both local police districts (6th and 26th).

We are also seeking someone to post weekly reports provided by both districts to the NoLibs Town Watch Facebook page.

Come out and be part of the solution!