The residents of Kensington’s Casa Carmen Aponte Senior Development project, just across the street from Norris Square at Hancock Street and Susquehanna Avenue, are no strangers to crime.
In the past, the development, with about 50 residents, has seen break-ins, burglaries and robberies.
Staff members have seen drug addicts using stairwells in the complex to shoot up. Often, they need to usher vagrants, that they find sleeping in the retirement home’s small courtyard, off of the property.
Earlier this month, just around the corner from Casa Carmen Aponte, a murder occurred in the early morning hours of Saturday, July 2. Samuel Betancourt, 29, of 6000 Cobbs Creek Parkway, was found lying on the street at 200 W. Susquehanna Ave.
He was shot in the shoulder and buttocks.
Until last week, representatives for the retirement home said, the complex had only a few security cameras which were either damaged or rarely monitored.
However, that changed with the recent installation of an eight-camera security system equipped with motion detectors.
And now, police are hoping the system, which can be viewed remotely over the Internet, will help reduce crimes in the area and provide crucial information when crimes do occur.
This is only the beginning of a larger effort that will see similar systems installed in senior living communities throughout state Rep. W. Curtis Thomas’ (D-181st dist.) district.
“I want to understand the needs of seniors in my district,” Thomas said during a July 12 unveiling of the “181st Safe Communities Initiative: Senior Electronic Surveillance Program” at Casa Carmen Aponte.
“We aren’t going to stop until developments like Casa Carmen Aponte have the best [security] in the City of Philadelphia and the entire Commonwealth,” he said.
Utilizing a grant for about $100,000 from the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development, Thomas funded the installation of a system at Casa Carmen Aponte, Guild House West, a retirement home at 12th Street and Fairmount Avenue; Guild House East, at 8th and Spring Garden streets; and Yorktown Arms at 1300 W. Jefferson St.
He hopes to continue to bring similar security systems to the remaining 10 retirement communities in the 181st District.
Dr. Jamil Assaf-Bantista, owner of Logistics Management Consultants, Inc., the 22-year-old company contracted to install the cameras, called the system a “prototype” or a pilot program.
Assaf-Bantista said the systems not only send out immediate alerts for motion detection, they also allow police, fire departments and other emergency responders to patch into the system and see what they could encounter while en route to the location.
“First responders can see what’s happening before they get there,” he reiterated.
Due to the fact that some of the cameras in Casa Carmen Aponte’s system face Norris Square, Capt. Mike Cram of the Philadelphia Police’s 26th District said the new system could be a tool for local law enforcement.
“This information is going to be a powerful weapon going forward,” he said.
Officer John Ramos, also of the 26th District and assigned to patrol Norris Square, said the high resolution cameras on the exterior of Casa Carmen Aponte could allow police to identify suspects who simply pass by the area or are seen in the nearby park.
Also, he said, with a methadone clinic located just feet from the retirement home, the security system is expected to help cut down on the problems residents have with break-ins because it will allow police to find out if patrons of the nearby clinic — Jef Ken Methadone Maintenance is at 136 W. Diamond St. — are causing problems at the retirement home.
“The high resolution cameras point at that park. It will help investigations,” said Ramos.
Along with the security aspect of the program, Assaf said in the future he hopes to utilize the system as a point-to-point medical service, where residents of the retirement communities could speak over cameras to doctors for simple check ins and minor concerns that could help cut down on costly trips to the doctor’s office.
“We are doing this from the bottom up,” he said. “But, we could really save time and money with a program like this.”
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org