Combating crime

Inspector Benjamin Naish is Northeast Philly’s top cop. He says the community must play a key role in crime fighting.

Re­turn­ing to his roots: In­spect­or Ben­jamin Naish, a North­east Phil­adelphia nat­ive, is the new com­mand­er of the Phil­adelphia Po­lice De­part­ment’s North­east Di­vi­sion. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

In­spect­or Ben­jamin Naish did something un­usu­al re­cently when asked by a news re­port­er to as­sess his chal­lenges as the new com­mand­er of the Phil­adelphia Po­lice De­part­ment’s North­east Di­vi­sion.

Naish picked up a news­pa­per. And he ac­tu­ally quoted from it.

The art­icle was a Feb. 24 Phil­adelphia In­quirer piece about the city’s shrink­ing middle class and grow­ing im­pov­er­ished class. Naish ex­plained that there’s a strong con­nec­tion between the eco­nom­ic con­di­tion of a com­munity and its crime.

“There are more people who are liv­ing in hard eco­nom­ic times and that’s the largest in­dic­at­or why we have cer­tain crime chal­lenges,” Naish said. “I think the trend of the North­east see­ing more vi­ol­ent crime is an in­dic­at­or of the shrink­ing middle class. I’m not say­ing this is the only area of the city ex­per­i­en­cing this, but it is def­in­itely re­flec­ted in the North­east.”

Aside from the sub­ject mat­ter, Naish’s in­terest in the art­icle and will­ing­ness to har­vest in­form­a­tion from it was telling in it­self. After all, it’s no secret that a lot of cops don’t think much of news­pa­pers. But Naish is not like many cops. He’s a com­mu­nic­at­or.

At one point of his 25-year ca­reer, he was the de­part­ment’s primary li­ais­on to the news me­dia as com­mand­er of the Pub­lic Af­fairs Unit. Now he over­sees all four patrol dis­tricts in the North­east as well as the di­vi­sion’s de­tect­ives. And he’s turn­ing to the com­munity to help them all do their jobs.

“The im­port­ance of know­ing what’s go­ing on in your neigh­bor­hood, on your block can’t be em­phas­ized enough,” Naish told the North­east Times. “Po­lice can’t be every­where, but can re­spond to what neigh­bors see. Po­lice also have a stake in the com­munity. Neigh­bors have to be aware of what doesn’t look right. And if something doesn’t look right, you have to speak up.”

Naish was ap­poin­ted to the North­east Di­vi­sion upon his pro­mo­tion to in­spect­or at the end of Janu­ary. Most re­cently, he served 6-1/2 years as cap­tain of South­w­est De­tect­ives. Pre­vi­ously, he was cap­tain in the 25th and 18th dis­tricts, as well as Pub­lic Af­fairs. 

He was a lieu­ten­ant in In­tern­al Af­fairs and a ser­geant in the 25th dis­trict. He was a patrol cop in the former 23rd dis­trict, which sub­sequently merged in­to the 22nd. He suc­ceeds In­spect­or Mi­chael Co­chrane as North­east Di­vi­sion com­mand­er.

“There are six patrol di­vi­sions where those of us who want to be part of this or­gan­iz­a­tions really want to be,” Naish said. “You have a hand in everything that the de­part­ment does for that sec­tion of the city.”

For Naish, it’s something of a long-awaited home­com­ing. He lived in the North­east as a child and at­ten­ded A.L. Fitzpatrick School be­fore his fam­ily moved out of the area dur­ing his high school years. He gradu­ated from Rut­gers and has a mas­ter’s in pub­lic safety man­age­ment from St. Joseph’s. He also com­pleted pro­fes­sion­al pro­grams at the FBI Academy and through North­west­ern Uni­versity.

Naish isn’t the only new com­mand­er in the di­vi­sion. Capt. Shawn Trush now heads North­east De­tect­ives, with his pre­de­cessor, Capt. Frank Bach­may­er, re­as­signed tem­por­ar­ily to the 35th dis­trict. Ac­cord­ing to po­lice sources, Bach­may­er is ex­pec­ted to be named the per­man­ent re­place­ment in the 7th dis­trict for Capt. Joe Zaffino, who served his last day in uni­form on Feb. 28 and will re­tire form­ally later this year. Pre­vi­ously, Bach­may­er headed the North­east’s 15th dis­trict.

Mean­while, in the 8th dis­trict, Capt. Len Ditch­kof­sky is ex­pec­ted to re­tire Aug. 1. His suc­cessor has not been named. Ac­cord­ing to Naish, the cap­tains have a big im­pact on how the com­munity views the po­lice de­part­ment. Each month, the dis­trict com­mand­ers host town hall meet­ings, while their lieu­ten­ants hold sev­er­al pub­lic Po­lice Ser­vice Area meet­ings in each dis­trict.

“The cap­tains are really the crit­ic­al front of the po­lice de­part­ment,” Naish said. “The pub­lic can have a great amount of con­tact with them through meet­ings.”

Naish’s first big meet­ing in the North­east was his guest ap­pear­ance on Feb. 18 at the Lawn­crest Com­munity As­so­ci­ation, where folks wanted to know about six re­cent murders in the neigh­bor­hood. In one case, killers bound and shot three vic­tims in­side a rowhome. In an­oth­er in­cid­ent, gun­men shot and killed a wo­man and her adult son in their home. In the third case, a man was sit­ting in a parked car when someone shot him through the win­dow.

“The ex­ec­ut­ive team of this de­part­ment is very aware of the sig­ni­fic­ant chal­lenges the 2nd dis­trict is fa­cing and they are provid­ing ex­tra re­sources to deal with these chal­lenges,” Naish said. “The Hom­icide Unit is work­ing very hard to bring those jobs in and make ar­rests in those ter­rible murders.”

Po­lice still be­lieve that the sud­den spike in murders is an ab­er­ra­tion, not the start of a trend.

“There’s no ques­tion the num­ber of hom­icides is out of pro­por­tion with what they’ve nor­mally been,” Naish said. “I think those two re­cent in­cid­ents ac­count­ing for five murders are an an­om­aly for the area. I wouldn’t say they’re a trend. They could hap­pen any­where in the city.”

In the big­ger pic­ture, the in­spect­or seeks to build upon re­cent slight de­clines in over­all crime and prop­erty crime (such as thefts and burg­lar­ies), while keep­ing vi­ol­ent crime (such as rob­ber­ies and as­saults) from grow­ing.

“I think we’re us­ing sound tac­tics and we’re get­ting cars out there and rob­ber­ies will go down,” Naish said.

“The Far North­east is fight­ing prop­erty crime. For­tu­nately, they don’t see much vi­ol­ent crime.”

In either case, com­mu­nic­a­tion is para­mount. Tip­sters can con­tact po­lice in vari­ous ways. There’s a phone num­ber (216-686-TIPS), a text ac­count (PP­DTIP) and a form on the philly­po­ web­site. Twit­ter users can con­tact the @Philly­Po­lice handle.

“If you’ve got spe­cif­ic de­tailed in­form­a­tion, don’t hes­it­ate to go to the web­site and go to the tip box and be as spe­cif­ic as you can. It will get in­vest­ig­ated,” Naish said. ••

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