Northeast Times

Pennypack problems top Upper Holmesburg civic

Holmes­burg-area res­id­ents were hop­ing that heightened pub­lic aware­ness of the Pennypack Creek Bridge would bring clean­li­ness and bet­ter se­cur­ity to the cen­tur­ies-old via­duct at Frank­ford Av­en­ue.

In­stead, just three months after the ded­ic­a­tion of a new Pennsylvania His­tor­ic­al Mark­er there, the bridge and its nearby park­land have again be­come fo­cal points for lit­ter, sub­stance ab­use and pros­ti­tu­tion, as well as a make­shift haven for the home­less, ac­cord­ing to neigh­bor­hood res­id­ents who ven­ted their frus­tra­tions dur­ing the Up­per Holmes­burg Civic As­so­ci­ation meet­ing on Jan. 17.

A Jan. 13 stabbing in the park sparked a re­newed pub­lic out­cry for more po­lice cov­er­age and park ranger patrols of the area.

“Our plans now are to take back the park,” said Stan Cy­w­in­ski, pres­id­ent of the UHCA.

Ac­cord­ing to Phil­adelphia po­lice, the non-fatal stabbing oc­curred at about 9 p.m. in the darkened woods of Pennypack Park about a half-mile west of Frank­ford Av­en­ue. Po­lice said that a man kicked his girl­friend and stabbed her in the leg with an un­dis­closed “cut­ting in­stru­ment” dur­ing an ar­gu­ment. The vic­tim waited about 12 hours be­fore re­port­ing the in­cid­ent to po­lice the fol­low­ing morn­ing. Po­lice be­lieve that the man and wo­man are home­less and may have been stay­ing at a camp­site in the park, al­though the park is sup­posed to be off-lim­its to the pub­lic at night.

The wo­man’s in­jur­ies were not con­sidered life-threat­en­ing.

Neigh­bors re­por­ted see­ing po­lice in­vest­ig­at­ing a stone pa­vil­ion just up­stream from the bridge as part of the crime scene, al­though sources told the North­east Times that the at­tack did not hap­pen in or near the pa­vil­ion. Neigh­bors said they saw a Phil­adelphia fire en­gine com­pany hose down the pa­vil­ion, which has a stone fire­place and has long been an overnight gath­er­ing spot for the home­less.

North­east De­tect­ives are in­vest­ig­at­ing the case and have ob­tained an ar­rest war­rant for a sus­pect, al­though he re­mained at large on Tues­day.

On Jan. 16, patrol of­ficers from the 8th Po­lice Dis­trict re­turned to the park to fur­ther in­vest­ig­ate re­ports that more than a dozen home­less people had set up camp­sites in the woods near where the stabbing oc­curred. The of­ficers found nu­mer­ous tent-type shel­ters on a re­mote wooded hill­side, al­though rain and slip­pery con­di­tions pre­ven­ted them from re­mov­ing the debris.

Com­munity lead­ers were not sur­prised.

“We have known that has been an is­sue for quite some time now,” Cy­w­in­ski said.

He be­lieves that loc­al folks are gen­er­ally sym­path­et­ic to the plight of the home­less, who prob­ably set up camps in the park at least partly be­cause a church soup kit­chen is with­in walk­ing dis­tance. However, neigh­bors are fed up with more ne­far­i­ous activ­ity that the area also seems to at­tract, in­clud­ing drink­ing, drug use and pros­ti­tu­tion.

Some of those activ­it­ies may also be linked to nearby apart­ment build­ings.

On the even­ing of Jan. 16, lead­ers of the Up­per Holmes­burg and Holmes­burg civic groups, along with nearby church and busi­ness lead­ers, com­plained to po­lice at the monthly Po­lice Ser­vice Area-1 meet­ing. Cy­w­in­ski said he learned that park patrols de­pend upon avail­able po­lice re­sources.

“It takes mul­tiple cops and time [that they’re] off the streets,” he said.

Cy­w­in­ski re­com­men­ded that res­id­ents start us­ing the 911 sys­tem more to re­port sus­pec­ted crimes. That way, the com­munity will height­en its de­mand for po­lice ser­vice and the de­part­ment may fun­nel more of­ficers in­to the dis­trict.

In an un­re­lated com­munity is­sue, the op­er­at­ors of the Ash­burn­er Inn re­por­ted that they planned to re­fur­bish and re­open the busi­ness after a Dec. 21 fire gut­ted the bar/res­taur­ant on the 8400 block of Tor­res­dale Ave.

The cause was “elec­tric­al” in nature and star­ted in the base­ment. The op­er­at­ors hope to start con­struc­tion with­in a few weeks. A re­open­ing date has not been set. The Ash­burn­er opened in 2004 after ex­tens­ive renov­a­tions to an ex­ist­ing prop­erty. ••

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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