Port Richmond keeps pressure on police

Still riled over a mob at­tack, con­cerned cit­izens have been pack­ing meet­ings in the river wards to de­mand more of the loc­al po­lice force.

In a show of sup­port for the com­munity, po­lice rep­res­ent­at­ives ad­dressed res­id­ent con­cerns dir­ectly last week dur­ing a meet­ing of the Port Rich­mond on Patrol and Civic Group at Samuels Re­cre­ation Cen­ter. 

Dur­ing the Sept. 27 meet­ing, held at the cen­ter at Gaul and Tioga streets — one of sev­er­al area play­grounds where neigh­bors say hoo­ligans are known to gath­er for late night drink­ing parties — it seemed that a vi­ol­ent mob at­tack from Sept. 9 was still fresh in many minds.

At the open­ing of the meet­ing, PRO­PAC pres­id­ent Patty Pat Kozlowski made it a point to cla­ri­fy the de­tails of a re­cent in­cid­ent in which Port Rich­mond res­id­ent Mark LaV­elle claimed to have been at­tacked in­side his In­di­ana Av­en­ue home after an angry mob broke down the front door. 

“Don’t be­lieve everything you read on the In­ter­net or on Face­book,” warned Kozlowski.

As the meet­ing began, res­id­ents said the in­cid­ent began due to long-brew­ing ra­cial ten­sions in the com­munity or drunk­en vi­ol­ence per­petu­ated by youth com­ing in­to the neigh­bor­hood from oth­er areas of the city. 

On hand to ad­dress these ru­mors, Lt. Ron Ball of the 24th Po­lice Dis­trict said po­lice don’t be­lieve race was a factor in the in­cid­ent. 

“We are still gath­er­ing in­form­a­tion, but I can’t say it was ra­cial,” said Ball as the crowd quieted. “It was re­tali­ation; that’s what it was.” 

“It could have been over a stolen bike … You can’t reas­on it all out when someone does something like this,” con­tin­ued the lieu­ten­ant. 

Al­most im­me­di­ately, res­id­ents wanted to know if there was any in­form­a­tion to sug­gest that there could be ad­di­tion­al at­tacks, but Ball said there was no evid­ence of that. 

An­oth­er con­cern brought to light by many in at­tend­ance was a per­cep­tion that Port Rich­mond was some­how get­ting ig­nored by po­lice. 

It seemed many in the audi­ence felt that, due to po­ten­tially high­er crime rates in sur­round­ing com­munit­ies like Kens­ing­ton and Hunt­ing Park, po­lice were of­ten busy there, leav­ing Port Rich­mond res­id­ents without sup­port and mak­ing it seem that emer­gency calls to po­lice wer­en’t re­solved quickly enough.

“You say we are your eyes and ears, but you nev­er come,” yelled one wo­man from the back of the crowd as res­id­ents shared con­cerns.

However, Ball re­futed this con­cern and said that all areas of the city are equal in the eyes of the law. 

“When you have an un­ruly crowd in the neigh­bor­hood, it’s tough,” said Ball. “But, hav­ing a large com­munity turnout like this is a big help.”

Res­id­ents have long com­plained that area parks, not­ably Samuel Re­cre­ation Cen­ter, as well as Stokely Play­ground at E. Thompson Street and In­di­ana Av­en­ue — where the Sept. 9 in­cid­ent is said to have ori­gin­ated — and A & W play­ground at Al­mond and West­mo­re­land streets, have long been prob­lem areas.

Dur­ing last week’s meet­ing, neigh­bors said they were of­ten un­sat­is­fied about po­lice pres­ence in these areas.

Ac­know­ledging that in­di­vidu­als gath­er­ing at loc­al parks for drink­ing is a prob­lem, Ball said that, while he wouldn’t ad­dress num­bers of per­son­nel, there would be spe­cial teams of of­ficers watch­ing these parks much more fre­quently.

“I don’t think you’re go­ing to see those areas un­manned any­more,” he prom­ised the audi­ence. 

While Ball claimed po­lice have stepped up en­force­ment throughout the com­munity, Maura Kennedy, a rep­res­ent­at­ive from the city’s De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions, told the crowd that the of­fice has also in­creased en­force­ment by tar­get­ing blighted prop­er­ties throughout the com­munity.

At the con­clu­sion of the meet­ing, many seemed pleased by the show of sup­port from both the po­lice and L&I. 

“I feel a lot bet­ter about it, this was really, really good,” said Phyl­lis Hack­imer, a loc­al res­id­ent.

D.J. Ot­tinger, a Mon­mouth Street res­id­ent who is mar­ried to a Phil­adelphia po­lice of­ficer, said she ap­pre­ci­ates the show of sup­port, but she hopes that law en­force­ment isn’t con­sidered the only solu­tion to neigh­bor­hood ills. 

“Par­ents need to take re­spons­ib­il­ity for their chil­dren,” she said. “I worry about the neigh­bor­hood, but I worry about the of­ficers’ safety as well.” ••

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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