A group of teenagers are creating serious problems for the residents of Port Richmond, said Patty McCloskey. She said consuming alcohol, doing drugs and trashing the park are a few of the localized problems that can quickly escalate into home invasions and vandalization. Fed up with the tension, McCloskey and her partner Kathy Hossler have started a group, Port Richmond on Patrol, to remedy the problem.
The six members patrol a half-mile radius as well as established hot spots of recent crime. They are involved with about 60 to 70 teenagers that populate the area. They hold meetings with these kids called “Port Richmond Positive.” The aim is to organize kids and build a sense of community in the park.
While not affiliated with the established “Eyes and Ears of Port Richmond,” McCloskey aims to accomplish the same mission starting with Campbell Square Park.
What are the biggest issues facing this area right now?
It’s these kids. Well, a few kids in particular. But people blame parents for everything. I have a 27-year-old son. I didn’t know what my kid was doing when he walked out the front door [when he was growing up] … When he walked out the front door I would check his backpack, the spray paint came right out. Guess what – when he walked out he went and bought spray paint. You can’t be with them. You can’t blame the parents.
Would you say your approach is working better than the Port Richmond Eyes and Ears?
Yes, it’s just … shut up on Facebook. [Port Richmond Eyes and Ears] complain about [the kids] constantly. You have to get up off your computer and do something about it. Go outside. People complain all day online that these kids are creating all this trouble, but no one is actually doing anything about it.
So you are sort of compromising to let them know that you are really on their side in the end of all this?
Yes. Absolutely. We are trying to start an [organization] for kids called “Port Richmond Positive.” We had a couple teenagers, but more young kids … We want to set up games in the park on a Saturday night at seven or whatever to show them that this is their park so they won’t end up trashing it like the kids out there now. We want to build something positive instead of just a place to drink beer and smoke weed.
What are the intentions of “Port Richmond Positive”?
Just to bring the kids together. The younger kids get together with us and we talk about how to make good choices. That doesn’t mean it’s working. We had these kids run through the park with shirts wrapped around their faces; right through our meeting. Were trying to get the kids to do just one positive thing each week and they’ll get all excited and respond with, “Well, what if we do five positive things?” and we say back [to them], “That’s great.” It’s encouraging. And then you see three shirtless kids running through our meeting because they just robbed a house, cops flying by looking for them. I just think to myself, “Oh my God, what kind of message is this going to send?”
Have you helped any kids and seen a positive turn around?
Yes, theres a few kids from the “bad group” … that came to me when they heard about a “purge” they were going to do. He called me crying and told me about a list of people that they were going to “get” … they were going to “purge” them. We were shocked because he was really involved with them but he trusted us. We intervened and caught them before they committed some pretty serious crimes.
Is the crime and violence a recent trend?
Yes and no. The cops are cleaning up [Kensington] and all the drug dealers have moved into Port Richmond. We literally go up to their face and say, “Get out of here. You are not welcome in our park.” But these kids see the drug dealers and 14-year-old kids think it’s cool. They don’t know any better.
– Text and images by Andrew Thayer and Patrick McCarthy.