Hunting Park: A Night on the Police Beat

A church group thanks the officers for their work in the community.


In Hunting Park, a neighborhood known for drugs, police officers Matt Dydak and John Teetz claim the majority of the people involved in these criminal activities actually come from outside of the neighborhood.

“It’s a shame for the people that live here. A lot of the people that come down here are drug addicts from nice neighborhoods. They’ll buy their drugs here, shoot up here, throw their needle on the ground and leave. They do not care about this neighborhood, they do not live here,” said Dydak, 26, who has partnered with Teetz for most of their three years on the job.

The police officers took me on a ride-along in June to show me the streets through their eyes. One potential danger: needles on the ground, especially in empty lots. For example, Dydak and Teetz responded to an assist call on Thayer Street. As they walked through an empty lot, not only did they have to worry about the suspect, they had to worry about getting stuck with a stray needle.

“A lot of times when a drug addict is running, he’ll throw the drugs away which can be dangerous because in some cases its a needle loaded with blood,” the 31-year-old Teetz said.

A blood filled needle lies on the ground of vacant factory
A blood-filled needle lies on the ground of vacant factory

The police officers in Hunting Park, part of the 25th Police District, do not just patrol the streets. Sometimes they have to follow a drug addict into an abandoned building to see if the addict is buying. If the addict is getting high, they have to find out where the addict bought the drugs.

People have a perception that the only way police get information is by threatening people. Officer Teetz disagreed.

“In order to be a good cop you have to have people skills, getting out and getting physical with a junkie isn’t going to get you any information. You have to talk to the guy and reason with him. You don’t want to be mean to everyone. Who knows, maybe one day I could be in trouble out here and need help,” he said.

Dydak and Teetz are friendly with some of the drug addicts and use them as informants; they have one guy they go to frequently and the man often gives them solid information. He would like to be kept anonymous, but the addict told us what makes the dealers so tough for police to catch is they don’t use drugs.

“They [the dealers] aren’t in it to make just a couple bucks and get high. This is their livelihoods. They are in it to make big money and that’s it. They even fly lawyers up from Puerto Rico to defend them. They leave no bases uncovered,” the addict said.

Teetz described how tough it is to bring down a dealer.

“These guys are not stupid. They know the deal. They know after a drug user buys that if the user is caught, he’ll sell out their spot to the police so he don’t get locked up. They have eyes everywhere out here. They know when we stop a user and the second we stop the user and ask him questions they are already changing the place where they have the stash,” he said.

The community has mixed feelings about police officers in Hunting Park, and it was evident during my ride with the officers. A group of  Hispanics at an outdoor church event exclaimed: “We love you officers keep up the good work. God bless!”
A church group thanks the officers for their work in the community.
A church group thanks the officers for their work in the community.

Two blocks later, a man threw pennies at the police vehicle. When a group of kids was asked to get off a drug corner, they instantly replied, “You don’t have to ask me twice officer, I am out of here.”
Twenty minutes later, Officers Dydak and Teetz asked another group of kids to get off the steps of a vacant house known as a haven for drug use. Those kids replied, “You must be bored. Don’t you have anything better to do.”
The officers took the good and the bad in stride. Teetz made it clear not everyone in this neighborhood is bad. “It’s a shame because out of the people that live here, maybe one out of 10 is bad, and they ruin it for the other nine.”
Teetz and Dydak said the night was slow. There were no major priority calls. But that’s all right with them. “It’s always good when there isn’t major activity on a night. Tonight, I am surprised nothing went down. Usually, when the weather is nice, things start to get crazy. We had two shootings on Sunday; last night we had a foot pursuit,” Teetz said. “Tonight, nothing.”
To these officers, it was a slow night. Still, a slow night in Hunting Park is a busy night in most other sections of the city. Dydak and Teetz chased a man through an empty lot, assisted a parole officer in catching an escapee from a halfway house, ran into a vacant building after a drug user and pulled over a man who was armed with a knife.

There were 1,392 reported domestic violence crimes in Hunting Park. The section, with a 21,708 population, still has the highest rate of domestic violence in the city.
There were 1,392 reported violent crimes in Hunting Park in 2006, the most recent data available. This North Philadelphia neighborhood has one of the highest rates in the city.

7 Comments

  1. ???? “The community has mixed feelings about police officers in Hunting Park, and it was evident during my ride with the officers. A group of Hispanics at an outdoor church event exclaimed: “We love you officers keep up the good work. God bless!”
    Where are the “mixed feelings”? You lost me-

  2. But otherwise Mr. Brennan- really well done article; especially liked the audio w/ the officers & photos.. plus your addition of Hunting Park crime stats.. And most importantly- you documented the ride-along as you saw it.. clearly & concisely. You will be a journalist to watch. Thank You.

  3. This was both painful, insightful, and a really personal experience for me watching the video/reading this post.

    I’m 43 now but I grew up in Hunting Park way back in the 70’s. I now live on a mountain in Colorado. Also my father was a Philly Cop for 26 years. Watching the clip with the cops and seeing my old neighborhood was deeply emotional for me – like I said, on a personal level. We moved out of Hunting Park when I was 10 years old but it will always be HOME. Our family was one of the last white families to leave the area. I credit being raised there for my colorblindness. My friends were black, white, latino and I didn’t know it! I didn’t care either. It is sad to see the decline of Hunting Park but at the same time see that there is still hope and still good people trying to make it a better place. My father passed away many years ago but I know he’d be proud of the officers in the video and probably feel the bit of sadness that I felt seeing our old neighborhood. This was really a well done post.

    Thank you for this! Is there any place in Hunting Park, any group or organization, that accepts outside help. I’m a computer guy – open source ( typically free programs ) and I’d love to help out in some way, maybe utilize my computer back ground to give kids & adults a leg up with computer skills. Just a thought.

    -max

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