Fighting crime in the riverwards…together

To com­bat crime loc­ally, com­munity groups throughout the river­wards have ban­ded to­geth­er to cre­ate a new crime-watch or­gan­iz­a­tion.

Throughout the river­wards, neigh­bor­hood or­gan­iz­a­tions and com­munity groups have long strived to make the re­gion a safer place.

Now, many have ban­ded to­geth­er to cre­ate the River­Wards Crime­Watch, a new part­ner­ship to curb crime.

On a sunny af­ter­noon on March 15, Neil Brech­er, chair­man of the new or­gan­iz­a­tion, led a walk through the 26th Po­lice Dis­trict’s Po­lice Ser­vice Area 3 — a large swath of the com­munity that stretches from Pop­lar Street to Le­high Av­en­ue, and from about Front Street to the Delaware River — to dis­cuss the group’s goals.

“There are a lot of people in this com­munity who want it to be safer,” said Brech­er. “Every­body has the same goal, want­ing a safer neigh­bor­hood.”

Brech­er, who formerly served as pres­id­ent of the Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation, said he had been kick­ing around the idea for this crime-watch group for some time. But it was the shoot­ing death of Shane Kelly — killed by a rob­ber along the usu­ally quiet 1300 block of Hewson St. last Novem­ber — that in his mind ce­men­ted the need for the group.

“I don’t want to just fo­cus on that, but (at a me­mori­al held at Bel­grade and Hewson streets for Kelly) you had people there from all over the neigh­bor­hood, from every group … groups came to­geth­er,” he said. “I thought that if we could bring to­geth­er all the civics in­to a single or­gan­iz­a­tion, it just seemed nat­ur­al.”

Since then, he said, he has en­gendered a part­ner­ship in­volving the Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation, the East Kens­ing­ton Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation, Fishtown Ac­tion, the Olde Rich­mond Civic As­so­ci­ation and the An­cient Or­der of Hi­ber­ni­ans Di­vi­sion 51 to cre­ate the River­Wards Crime­Watch.

“Each of these groups has a lot on their plate,” he said. “We can help them help oth­ers.”

Com­posed of about 10 people, the group has been work­ing with the city’s Town Watch In­teg­rated Ser­vices to de­vel­op ways to di­vide the large area in­to man­age­able sec­tions, thus en­abling teams to work as the eyes and ears of the po­lice de­part­ment.

Mem­bers also are go­ing on walk-alongs in neigh­bor­hoods around the city to learn what works for oth­er Town Watch groups. Brech­er hopes the or­gan­iz­a­tion will step in to provide an ad­di­tion­al level of sup­port for the po­lice.

“We thought that people could par­ti­cip­ate where we think the po­lice are stretched too thin,” he said.

The fledgling group has star­ted to im­ple­ment new ideas. Brech­er thought the group could take ad­vant­age of area dog parks by bring­ing dog own­ers on board.

“Every­body has to go out to walk their dogs,” said Brech­er. “At the dog parks, there are already these so­cial groups … the pres­ence of people on the street alone can help stop the per­sist­ence of crime.”

In sim­il­ar fash­ion, he’s look­ing to have neigh­bor­hood cross­ing guards join the group.  “They are already out there. They know each oth­er and people in the com­munity,” he said. “This is not a war-torn area be­ing run by crim­in­als.”

The anti-crime group has an of­fi­cial Web site —­ — and plans to par­ti­cip­ate in this year’s an­nu­al Na­tion­al Night Out, the crime-watch ini­ti­at­ive. The group also is watch­ing the pro­gress of a neigh­bor­hood sur­veil­lance-cam­era pro­gram in nearby North­ern Liber­ties as a pos­sible pro­ject for the fu­ture.

Mostly, Brech­er said, he hopes the group helps build a sense of com­munity, bring­ing neigh­bors to­geth­er and sup­port­ing one an­oth­er to push out the crim­in­al ele­ment.

“We need to edu­cate people, keep people in­volved and keep people safe,” he said. ••

For more in­form­a­tion or to get in­volved with the River­Wards Town­Watch, vis­it­

Man­aging ed­it­or Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­ 


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