A sign of troubled times

Fed up with drug users, one Port Rich­mond res­id­ent de­cided to send a clear mes­sage to heroin ad­dicts get­ting high in front of his home.

“No Heroin Park­ing.”

It’s the kind of thing you think you wouldn’t have to tell people, es­pe­cially along a tidy block of res­id­en­tial homes in Port Rich­mond.

But that’s ex­actly what one Clear­field Street res­id­ent was com­pelled to do a couple of weeks back after get­ting fed up with a drug user who pulled up in front of his house for a quick hit of dope.

A Port Rich­mond res­id­ent, who asked to be only iden­ti­fied as Dav­id, said he was driv­en to paint a “No Heroin Park­ing” sign on to a piece of ply­wood and nail it to the tele­phone pole across the street from his home after a dis­turb­ing in­cid­ent. 

After catch­ing a wo­man he claims was shoot­ing heroin in­to her arm while seated be­hind the wheel of a vehicle parked near his home, Dav­id pos­ted the sign.

Of all the anti-drug meas­ures un­der­taken by the city in re­cent years — from former May­or John Street’s Op­er­a­tion Safer Streets straight through to the cur­rent Philly Rising pro­gram — this surely ranks as one of the more cre­at­ive meas­ures to fight the seedy ele­ment of drug ab­use per­meat­ing neigh­bor­hoods like Port Rich­mond.

So far, it seems to be work­ing, Dav­id said.

The ori­gin­al in­cid­ent, he re­called, happened a few weeks back when he thought he saw a friend’s truck pull up. In­stead, he saw a young wo­man sit­ting hunched over in the front seat of a truck.

“I thought she was writ­ing something down,” Dav­id said. “Then she threw some wrap­pers out the win­dow and I knew what she was do­ing.”

Ir­rit­ated by the blatant drug use, he con­fron­ted the wo­man and took pho­tos of her truck with his cell phone.

“I thought I’d just put it on Face­book and em­bar­rass the girl,” he said.

But, to his sur­prise, the wo­man shouted back that she was a drug coun­selor and pro­duced some form of iden­ti­fic­a­tion.

Un­fazed, Dav­id said he told her he would con­tact the po­lice to dis­cuss her ID and, without warn­ing, she took off.

But, he didn’t re­port the in­cid­ent to po­lice.

In­stead, Dav­id said, a friend gave him the idea for a sign after he told the story at work, and he fol­lowed through.

“We haven’t seen any­thing out here since I put that up,” he said.

But, be­fore then, the res­id­ent com­plained that the area was host to a steady stream of users who, he be­lieves, head down Clear­field Street to find drugs on Kens­ing­ton Av­en­ue — a strip known throughout the re­gion as an easy place to score — and re­turn with their il­li­cit goods.

“You could sit there all day and watch them walk up Clear­field Street,” he said.

As of press time, the 24th Po­lice Dis­trict hadn’t re­turned calls ask­ing about drug ar­rests in the area.

But, Mary­ann Trombetta, head of the Port Rich­mond Town Watch, said Dav­id made a mis­take by not call­ing the po­lice im­me­di­ately after the in­cid­ent.

“I think it’s ter­rible. He should take that sign down,” she said. “He scared them off, so take the sign down.”

Trombetta, who patrols with her group reg­u­larly to find prob­lems throughout the com­munity — of­ten in­stances of graf­fiti — said she wor­ries that neigh­bors liv­ing near the sign might be afraid their prop­erty val­ues will go down.

“If I was out to buy a house … I wouldn’t buy a house by there,” she said. “I un­der­stand why he did it. But, I wouldn’t have handled it that way.”

But, a neigh­bor who lives on Clear­field Street praised the sign, say­ing the area is rife with open-air drug sales.

While she asked to re­main an­onym­ous, the neigh­bor said she hopes the spray-painted sign makes an im­pact on the neigh­bor­hood prob­lem.

“Thank you for fi­nally see­ing this,” she said. “I live right down the block from that sign and deals go on right out­side my house.”

Mary, an­oth­er neigh­bor on Clear­field Street, said she was con­cerned at how the sign might make oth­ers feel about the neigh­bor­hood. But, along with drug use, she wor­ried that area car break-ins — a com­mon oc­cur­rence throughout the river wards — were the work of area drug ad­dicts.

“It doesn’t look good for our neigh­bor­hood,” she said. “But, it’s good if it chases them away and let’s them know that some­body is watch­ing.”

Trombetta said the best thing Dav­id could have done would have been to con­tact the po­lice, be­cause, if every­body in the city put up sim­il­ar signs, the streets would be be­sieged with sim­il­ar “Don’t Shoot Up” and “Don’t Steal” signs.

“That’s what would hap­pen if you have signs like that all over the place,” she said, not­ing that drug use is a prob­lem throughout the city. “You can’t say that ‘they don’t do it in my neigh­bor­hood’ any­more, be­cause they do this every­where.”

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com 

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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