Northeast Times

New Group to Tackle Issues that Plague Port Richmond

The newly formed Port Rich­mond West Com­munity Ac­tion Net­work met last week in hopes to fur­ther its goal to make the com­munity a clean­er, safer place for res­id­ents.

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 hmit­man@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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