Police officers from the 14th District held a Police Service Area meeting last night at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, located at 5421 Germantown Ave., but neighborhood residents were noticeably absent. In fact, no residents showed up.
Synell Hall, a 16-year-veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department and a community relations officer, has worked in the 14th District for six years. She emphasized the benefit of Police Service Area meetings.
“We need the community to be our eyes and ears by being a part of the town watch or Police District Advisory Council,” Hall said.
Lt. Brian Murphy was one of the three officers at the meeting. He was surprised to find that no one attended when he estimated normal attendance around 60 people.
“We try to space the [police service area meetings] throughout the area,” Murphy said. “I think it depends on the cohesion of the neighborhood. Some neighborhoods are very tight and other ones, not many people come out to the community.”
Murphy started in the 14th District five years ago and said crime has dramatically decreased from the shootings he witnessed earlier in his career.
“It went from violent crime to more petty crime,” Murphy said. “We would get a shooting maybe once or twice a week, but now it’s very rare.”
While violent crimes have decreased, other offenses are still prevalent in the district.
“What’s popular now is theft from automobiles,” Murphy said. “It’s ongoing and something we’ve always had problems with.”
Lesinette Ortiz, a crime prevention officer, has worked in the district for six years and described her efforts to assist neighbors in taking precaution.
“We do security surveys and check windows, doors and entryways,” said Ortiz. “I hand out bulletins to help residents prevent burglaries by knowing what to look for.”
With the coming holidays, Hall has shifted her focus to helping families during what can be a difficult time.
“We have families that are in need of turkeys,” Hall said. “We are asking that anyone in need of a turkey basket to contact 14th District as soon as possible.”
Officers from the 14th District will deliver the turkey baskets in conjunction with Philadelphia Police Department’s Operation Thanksgiving.
John Childrey, the caretaker of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, was discouraged that area residents were absent from the meeting. He was concerned a lack of jobs matched by a decrease in welfare support to those in need has caused crime to continue.
While police officers held an optimistic view about violent crime in the district, Childrey still found it to be problematic.
“You can’t walk down Germantown Avenue day or night without looking behind your back for someone to stick you up,” Childrey said.
Childrey said the church has even been victim to a break-in attempt in the past and hoped more activity through community groups would continue to improve the area.