Northeast Times

New commander steps in at the 8th district

Start­Frag­ment

Phil­adelphia po­lice Capt. Len Ditch­kof­sky spent a mere nine months with his de­part­ment’s spe­cial vic­tims unit. But that re­l­at­ively brief as­sign­ment more than a dec­ade ago rep­res­ents much of what his 30-plus-year ca­reer has been about.

The terms “in­vest­ig­a­tion,” “di­li­gence” and “in­teg­rity” are apt de­scrip­tions.

On Feb. 10, Ditch­kof­sky be­came the North­east’s new­est patrol com­mand­er as head of the 8th Po­lice Dis­trict. He re­places Capt. De­borah Kelly, who re­tired after 32 years in the po­lice de­part­ment.

But back in late 1999 and early 2000, his job was to re­view thou­sands of years-old SVU cases, many of which had been mis­clas­si­fied by ini­tial in­vest­ig­at­ors.

That is, then-Com­mis­sion­er John Ti­money sus­pec­ted that SVU or “sex crimes” de­tect­ives, work­ing un­der a pri­or ad­min­is­tra­tion, had down­graded or dropped many re­por­ted rape cases, likely to ar­ti­fi­cially de­crease the city’s crime rates, which are re­por­ted to the FBI an­nu­ally.

The Phil­adelphia In­quirer ex­posed this stat­ist­ic­al ma­nip­u­la­tion in a series of art­icles pub­lished around the same time.

Ditch­kof­sky and his team found more than 300 rapes in the pre­vi­ous five years that had been re­cor­ded as less­er crimes or not at all, in ad­di­tion to hun­dreds of oth­er cases that had been down­graded. The in­vest­ig­at­ors looked as far back as 1995 be­cause stat­utes of lim­it­a­tion would have ex­pired on earli­er cases.

“It was me, a ser­geant and four brand-new de­tect­ives,” Ditch­kof­sky said. “We ar­res­ted every­body we could and re­clas­si­fied jobs. It was in the thou­sands.

“Num­ber one, it was for the vic­tims’ sake. It was [about] fix­ing those jobs.”

By Au­gust 2000, the task was done and Ditch­kof­sky was re­as­signed to com­mand East De­tect­ives, a post he held for the next nine and a half years.

Ditch­kof­sky, 53, a Kens­ing­ton nat­ive and 1976 North Cath­ol­ic gradu­ate, was hired on Sept. 16, 1981. After com­plet­ing his Po­lice Academy re­cruit train­ing, he served in North Phil­adelphia’s 22nd dis­trict.

“One of my lieu­ten­ants, Bobby MacNeal, his fath­er was my first cap­tain in the 22nd dis­trict,” Ditch­kof­sky said. “I spent most of my time as a [patrol] cop in plain clothes on burg­lary de­tail.

“I was an act­ive [patrol] cop. I liked lock­ing people up. My part­ner most of the time was John Darby. He’s the god­fath­er to one of my kids.”

Darby now has one of the highest-pro­file jobs in the po­lice de­part­ment as cap­tain of the SVU.

In Feb­ru­ary 1989, Ditch­kof­sky left the 22nd to be­come a ser­geant in the East Di­vi­sion’s 25th dis­trict. Four­teen months later, he moved to North Cent­ral De­tect­ives, where he be­came spe­cial in­vest­ig­a­tions unit su­per­visor.

Ditch­kof­sky re­turned to the 25th as a lieu­ten­ant in Decem­ber 1994, then to the 9th in Cen­ter City upon his Au­gust 1997 pro­mo­tion to cap­tain.

Three years later, he moved to SVU, then East De­tect­ives. In early 2010, he moved to the ma­jor crimes di­vi­sion as com­mand­er.

The 8th dis­trict may be his fi­nal stop in the de­part­ment. He is sched­uled to re­tire in three years as an en­rollee of the city’s DROP pro­gram. Des­pite spend­ing most of his ca­reer do­ing in­vest­ig­at­ive work, Ditch­kof­sky is well-versed on ef­fect­ive patrol strategies.

“At­ti­tude is everything. They keep com­ing up with new tech­no­logy to solve crime, but the truth is you have to talk to people. You have to be ag­gress­ive, chase [sus­pects] and you have to know people in the neigh­bor­hood. You have to know where you work,” he said.

Ditch­kof­sky fa­vors highly vis­ible uni­formed patrol as a de­terrent to some of the dis­trict’s biggest prob­lems. Burg­lar­ies are on the rise in the dis­trict and the city as a whole.

“Prop­erty crime, burg­lar­ies: that’s our biggest prob­lem right now,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who aren’t home dur­ing the day. They’re out work­ing or go­ing to school every day. It’s a tar­get-rich en­vir­on­ment. There’s a lot up here.”

There’s a lot of ter­rit­ory to cov­er. too.

“It’s big up here, really big. That’s the big dif­fer­ence,” he said. “You have to know where the crime is. … You need more vis­ib­il­ity. Cops have got to get out of the car and look around.”

Ditch­kof­sky is no stranger to the North­east, however. He lives in a neigh­bor­ing po­lice dis­trict. Now single, he has four adult chil­dren.

“I can have an im­pact on my own neigh­bor­hood,” he said. “I want to make a dif­fer­ence here.” ••

Com­munity mem­bers will have a chance to meet Ditch­kof­sky in per­son on Sunday, March 18, at the an­nu­al George Biles Me­mori­al Of­ficer of the Year din­ner at Cannstat­ter’s, 9130 Academy Road.

The event runs from 3 to 7 p.m. The $25 tick­et price in­cludes buf­fet, al­co­hol­ic drinks, soft drinks and dessert. Call Of­ficer Rudy Muller at 215-685-9377 for in­form­a­tion.

End­Frag­ment

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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