Tacony’s troubles top town hall meeting

A lot of Ta­cony res­id­ents don’t like what’s been hap­pen­ing to their neigh­bor­hood in re­cent weeks.

On Jan. 20, at Long­shore Av­en­ue and Tulip Street, two masked gun­men shot and killed a Chinese takeout shop own­er dur­ing a rob­bery.

On Jan. 6, three rob­bers in­vaded a home on He­ger­man Street near Heller­man Street, threatened four adult oc­cu­pants at gun­point and stole between $5,000 and $7,000 cash from them. Then they grabbed one of the vic­tims, a 44-year-old man, drove him to a nearby con­veni­ence store where he works and forced him to sur­render an­oth­er $8,000 or $9,000 to them.

Dur­ing a Town Hall meet­ing led by 15th Po­lice Dis­trict Capt. Frank Bach­may­er at Dis­ston Re­cre­ation Cen­ter on Feb. 1, res­id­ents ven­ted about those two dis­turb­ing crimes as well as what they de­scribed as routine in­cid­ents of gun­fire in the neigh­bor­hood.

They also com­plained about the hook­ers on Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue.

The Ta­cony Civic As­so­ci­ation hos­ted the meet­ing.

“We’ve seen in the last few years, es­pe­cially the last ten years, our neigh­bor­hood is go­ing down,” said Joe Nicoletti, pres­id­ent of the Ta­cony Town Watch.

Nicoletti asked the 50 or so res­id­ents in at­tend­ance to vo­lun­teer for his or­gan­iz­a­tion and help re­vive the neigh­bor­hood.

“This is our neigh­bor­hood. I grew up here and I don’t want to leave,” Nicoletti said.

Ta­cony in­cludes the area bounded by Frank­ford Av­en­ue to the west, Rob­bins Av­en­ue to the south, Cottman Av­en­ue to the north and the Delaware River to the east. The lar­ger 15th dis­trict also in­cludes the neigh­bor­hoods of Holmes­burg, May­fair, Wissi­nom­ing, North­wood, Frank­ford and Brides­burg.

Milt Mar­telack, pres­id­ent of the newly re­formed May­fair Town Watch, piggy­backed Nicoletti’s mes­sage.

“Every­body’s starving for re­sources now. [But] we’re the re­sources sit­ting right here in this room,” Mar­telack said. “A lot of stuff, as a com­munity, we can con­trol.”

Bach­may­er ac­know­ledged that vi­ol­ent and prop­erty crime is trend­ing in the op­pos­ite dir­ec­tion from what neigh­bors want to see.

His dis­trict is the largest in the city by pop­u­la­tion and volume of 911 calls. It’s also one of the largest geo­graph­ic­ally.

In 2010, there were 72 few­er rob­ber­ies re­por­ted in the dis­trict than there were in 2009. And in 2011, there were 40 few­er rob­ber­ies than there were in 2010. Yet, the dis­trict still leads the city in gun­point rob­ber­ies and all oth­er types of rob­ber­ies.

“Rob­ber­ies as you know can lead to shoot­ings and can lead to hom­icides,” Bach­may­er said.

More re­cently, there were 41 rob­ber­ies re­por­ted dur­ing the last week of Decem­ber and first week of Janu­ary, fol­lowed by 29 more in the second and third weeks of Janu­ary.

None of those 29 oc­curred in Ta­cony. Yet, vi­ol­ence re­sur­faced shortly after that peri­od in the form of the Jan. 20 takeout shop shoot­ing.

“Rob­ber­ies are ex­tremely sens­it­ive to us be­cause we saw what happened at 4800 Long­shore,” Bach­may­er said.

No sus­pects have been named pub­licly in the case, but hom­icide de­tect­ives feel “con­fid­ent” that an ar­rest is im­min­ent, Bach­may­er said. Mean­while, the ban­dits in the Jan. 6 home in­va­sion rob­bery and kid­nap­ping re­main at large.

The cap­tain ad­vised res­id­ents that avoid­ing es­cal­a­tion should be their first pri­or­ity when con­fron­ted with a rob­bery.

“Two things are very im­port­ant,” he said. “Firstly, do what the per­pet­rat­or says. Give him what he wants. Don’t be a hero. But get an age and a de­scrip­tion [of the rob­ber] and call 911 [af­ter­ward]. And secondly, fol­low up with it through the court sys­tem.”

One man com­plained that the news me­dia seem to pay more at­ten­tion to crimes in Cen­ter City than in Ta­cony. For ex­ample, by his as­sess­ment, tele­vi­sion news pro­grams re­por­ted for sev­er­al days last month about a fatal beat­ing that oc­curred on Chest­nut Street. Yet, the Long­shore takeout murder seemed for­got­ten a day later.

“It’s like [they’re say­ing] Ta­cony is already gone,” the man said.

Bach­may­er noted that hom­icide de­tect­ives might seek ad­di­tion­al pub­li­city in some cases when the cov­er­age might res­ult in needed in­vest­ig­at­ive leads.

Res­id­ents of oth­er areas in the dis­trict also con­trib­uted to the meet­ing dia­logue. One man lives near Bridge and Hawthorne streets in Frank­ford and he’s wor­ried.

“I [live] around the corner and hear shots all the time,” the man said.

Bach­may­er re­por­ted that he’s been as­sign­ing ad­di­tion­al patrols, in­clud­ing foot and bi­cycle units, to that area to com­bat vi­ol­ence.

Dis­trictwide, burg­lar­ies are also on the rise, just as they are throughout the North­east and the city as a whole. In 2011, burg­lar­ies were up 20 per­cent from 2010 in the dis­trict. A large por­tion of those crimes in­volved va­cant prop­er­ties in which the crooks went in look­ing for cop­per pipes and oth­er met­al to sell as scrap. Po­lice have been try­ing to work with area scrap met­al deal­ers to identi­fy law­break­ers.

Bach­may­er ad­vised res­id­ents that if someone breaks in­to the house, don’t clean up be­fore po­lice ar­rive. Leave everything as you found it so of­ficers may be able to get fin­ger­prints and oth­er evid­ence from the scene.

Back in Ta­cony, one wo­man re­por­ted that the area of Un­ruh and Knorr streets is a prob­lem.

“That pock­et, it’s bad,” she said.

Bach­may­er was aware of one drug-re­lated shoot­ing at Un­ruh and Dit­man streets a “couple months ago,” fol­lowed two nights later by a re­lated shoot­ing nearby. Po­lice ar­res­ted two sus­pects after the lat­ter in­cid­ent.

An­oth­er wo­man pleaded for help get­ting rid of the Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue hook­ers, par­tic­u­larly in the Knorr Street area. When neigh­bors call 911, patrol of­ficers might show up and shuffle the street-walk­ers off the corners, but they al­ways seem to re­turn.

Bach­may­er ex­plained that patrol of­ficers need prob­able cause to ar­rest the wo­men of the night, and that’s tough to es­tab­lish be­cause of the nature of their busi­ness.

However, the 15th dis­trict of­ficers who patrol the area know the usu­al of­fend­ers.

“We do our best to move them along as or­derly as we can,” the cap­tain said.

He en­cour­aged res­id­ents to take their own stand against the hook­ers, simply by be­com­ing a vis­ible pres­ence in their neigh­bor­hood.

“The way you’re go­ing to end pros­ti­tu­tion is by tak­ing back your com­munity,” Bach­may­er said. ••

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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