Though the group is little more than a month old, the Port Richmond West Community Action Network already has gained a foothold in the community.
And during the group’s Nov. 16 meeting at the Cornerstone Community Church at Allegheny and Frankford avenues, organizer D. Michael Blackie said the organization is bringing people together to build a stronger, active community.
ldquo;The people are coming together,” he said during the meeting. “And now, people that didn’t respond in the past are listening to us.”
The civic group has come a long way since its raucous beginning at a Sept. 28 meeting at the Port Richmond PourHouse at Clearfield and Weikel streets. Residents had shown up there, many angry and upset, because of a triple shooting in the neighborhood that day.
During last week’s meeting, Blackie introduced a roster of speakers who provided residents with information about fighting crime and turning to services that support the community.
Lt. Robert Ortiz, of the 24th Police District, gave an overview of reported crimes and arrests since August in the district’s Police Service Area 2, encompassing Front Street to Tulip Street and Lehigh Avenue to Allegheny Avenue.
According to Ortiz, within the PSA, there were two homicides and two related arrests; 11 reported rapes and one arrest; 69 robberies and 21 arrests; 72 reports of aggravated assault, with 40 arrests; and 47 burglaries with 10 arrests.
The highest number of crime arrests came from targeting narcotics use or sales in the community, he added.
Ortiz said neighborhood tips, along with the work of narcotics officers, led to 337 arrests for narcotics violations in PSA 2.
In fact, he emphasized the vital role played by residents who stepped forward and called police when they saw likely drug deals on the street.
ldquo;It may seem like we aren’t making arrests, because people are still selling drugs. But the thing is, if you arrest somebody, someone else always comes in,” he said. “The CIA can’t just make the problem go away.”
The public’s support, he added, especially enable officers to stay alert for neighborhood residents who could be in cahoots with drug dealers, lured by some quick cash.
ldquo;Some dealers pay people to hide their drugs in their homes and things like that,” said Ortiz. “It’s how some people make money. It’s a complex problem, and it’s the biggest problem we have.”
Maryann Trombetta, president of Port Richmond’s Town Watch, said her team of 15 people regularly patrol the community and especially focus on graffiti, problem vacant lots and abandoned houses to keep on top of problem spots before they get worse.
ldquo;We don’t approach anybody,” she said, referring to possible troublemakers, “but if we see something we call 911.”
Many at last week’s meeting applauded the actions of police and the Town Watch members. Blackie said his advice for folks moving into the neighborhood is “be good or be gone” — the community, he explained, won’t tolerate drugs and violence anymore.
ldquo;It’s our neighborhood. From how I see it, these drug dealers came from somewhere else,” said Blackie. “My house is now worth less than what is owed on it because of what we are allowing to have happen here … drug dealers are doing it to us.”
On that topic of targeting illegal activity, representatives of the city’s Department of Streets were at the meeting to discuss how trash removal also can help communities.
ldquo;If everybody cleaned outside their houses, can you imagine how good this city would look?” asked Preston Lockwood, a sanitation enforcement officer for the streets department.
Another speaker, Nykia Perez, with the organization Philly Tree People, discussed a project that will soon plant 100 trees in Fishtown, Port Richmond and East Kensington. She thinks trees have a calming effect on a community.
ldquo;Studies have shown that the lack of nature doesn’t help our stress levels,” she said. “This really transforms a community. One of the things you’re saying when you plant a tree in front of your house is ‘I live here and I care.’” ••
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org