Every year throughout the city, neighbors fill the streets for an evening of peaceful demonstration against crime.
National Night Out, which will be held this year on August 7, brings together local residents to take a stand against crime in their communities. Everyone spends the evening out on the street, hoping to show troublemakers that they are ever- vigilant in keeping out criminal activity.
That’s at least what the event hopes to accomplish. Here in the riverwards, though, one night a year might not be enough.
To remedy that, the newly formed RiverWards Crime Watch is now hosting monthly “night out” events to prove they are serious about curbing crime throughout the community.
Last week on Friday, April 27, members of the crime watch group gathered at the corner of Columbia and Thompson streets in Fishtown, just outside of Hetzell’s Playground, for the latest of these events.
“It’s like the way the city hosts its annual clean up,” said Neil Brecher, chairman of the RWCW. “But that’s not the only time there is a neighborhood cleanup…It’s nice to have the citywide events, but we want to do these to sort of fill in the gaps.”
He said the group hopes to act as the “eyes and ears” for the police and reports problems they may encounter to the authorities.
Brecher said they decided to meet near Hetzell’s field because recently, during area clean ups, neighbors have found an increased amount of drug paraphernalia – including small baggies and needles – in the areas surrounding the park.
He said, though, that the field itself is locked in the evenings, and the paraphernalia has been not been found on the inside of the field, just the outskirts.
“It’s really increased in the past year,” said Tom Potts, neighborhood advisory committee coordinator for the New Kensington Community Development Corporation. “Out here, under the trees, it can be a quiet, nice place to do their – let’s say – stuff…In the area, there really has been a lot of drug use and we are trying to keep it out.”
Maggie O’Brien, president of Fishtown Action, said the monthly night out gatherings are held as a way to support the neighborhood’s local police district – the 26th district – because neighbors know that with so much activity in the community, there aren’t enough police officers in the 26th to cover it all.
Asked if she had concerns that the neighbors were showing support in areas where drug addicts might be lurking, she grinned.
“This lets them know that we know,” she said.
During the chilly evening, as the gathering on the corner grew, neighbors chatted as children and pets played in the area where neighbors are hoping to remove the criminal element.
Looking across the field at an evening softball game that was held that day, Potts said that he wants to support the crime watch group because it’s a tool that gives neighbors power to make a difference in their community.
“We just want people to know we care about the neighborhood,” he said.
For more information on the RiverWard Crime Watch or to learn about upcoming events, visit www.RWCW.org.
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org