Northwest Philadelphia: East Stafford Street Bucking The System
The area around the intersection of Chew and Chelten avenues is one of the most crime-infested sections of East Germantown.
Although the surrounding area is characterized by crime and drug-related activities, the quiet 900 block of East Stafford Street maintains a safe, communal environment.
Marvin White, a former resident of the 900 block of East Stafford Street, explained his history with the area, and the how all the neighbors are one extended family.
“My family has been living here for about 40 years,” said White, whose mother still resides on the block. “People are pretty consistent. Some of the old neighbors have been here for 50 or 60 years. It’s a family vibe. They look out for each other. Everybody knows everybody.”
Abdullah Sabree, another resident of the block, confessed that while he is fairly new to the block he still felt the “family vibe” that White mentioned.
“I’ve been living on this block, maybe three years and everybody seems to get along,” said Sabree. He described a typical summer day with neighbors interacting and bonding over food. “People are on their porches, they barbeque and stuff like that,” Sabree said.
As renovations occurred in the East Germantown neighborhood, and an influx of new residents replaced the previous homeowners, the block has improved. Area police activity has increased significantly with the recent additions of the Germantown Social Security Office in October of 2012 on Chelten Avenue, and the conversion of a former Rite Aid into a daycare center.
Raven Hawke, the block captain of the 900 block of East Stafford, worked diligently over the last eight years to improve the safety of the block. Hawke, who’s a licensed technician, bilingual chef, and soon to be real estate agent, is approached by his neighbors for just about everything.
“The area is coming up” Hawke said. “We’ve been getting patrols, the police horses coming up, and we also have the 14th police district on bikes. They do a geographical perimeter sweep from Chew and Chelten up around, and they ride around to Stafford. They’re constantly on bikes and you never know when they’re going to pop up or are in unmarked vehicles.”
A spokeswoman for the 35th Police District said they’re fighting crime in the neighborhood a number of ways, which include strategically placing officers on foot and car beats.
When asked what they would change about the block, many of the residents admit that while their block exhibits a quiet, peaceful atmosphere, the crime on the neighboring 800 block continues to be a problem.
“It’s been raids. It’s been shootings on the 800 block of Stafford,” Hawke said. “It is considerable rivalry because of the way we uphold our block, as opposed to how they uphold their block. It’s a lot of drug related operations going down on 800. They are not as conscientious of everything because they are still stuck in time. The eyes and ears are more aware of the things going on around you.”
Still, regardless of the conditions of the nearby blocks, the residents of the 900 block of East Stafford genuinely enjoy living on the street. They value the sense of community and loyalty to each other. Even the home-fronts of their townhouses display a bit of their communal ambiance. The left-side of the block is lined with flower pots playing home to a number of colorful plants, giving the block a unique distinction from others in the area.
Pamela Turner, a resident of East Germantown for more than 30 years, has lived on the block for nearly five years. She credited her love of the block to the mix of different neighbors she’s gained.
“My son is able to play, he has friends on the block,” said Turner. “I like the fact that it is kids on the block, and their parents are kind of like me. They work, or they’re in school. It’s like our own little community within the neighborhood. It’s a nice block. There’s no drama really. We have a good block captain. We have clean up days. We have block parties, pretty well put together block.”
As for the future of the 900 block of East Stafford, Hawke is optimistic, and hopes the block will be an example for the surrounding area.
“This neighborhood is up and coming,” she said. “I say within the next five to ten years, you’ll start seeing changes.”
– Text, video and images by Imani Abdus-Saboor and Charles Watson