Germantown residents demand police action

From left, Yvonne Haskins of Germantown United Community Development Corporation (GUCDC), City Councilwoman Cindy Bass and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey hear resident complaints at a neighborhood meeting last week.--Tribune Photo by Samaria Bailey

A group of Germantown neighbors gathered at a community meeting on Jan. 29 to demand police action in response to what they described as increasing crime in their neighborhood.

Upwards of 50 people attended the meeting, sharing their stories of home break-ins, assaults and crack houses to the city officials in attendance — including Councilwoman Cindy Bass, Police chief Charles Ramsey, SEPTA officials and a representative from the mayor’s office.

“The purpose of this meeting was to address the community’s concerns [regarding] increased drug activity, homicides, burglaries and physical assaults for the past two years,” said Lisa Hopkins, Founder of Northwest Neighbors of Germantown. “I’ve lived in Germantown for 45 years and on this street for 15 years. [And] this whole community has gone down.”

Hopkins said the loitering of drug dealers in the neighborhood has gotten so bad that she is afraid to send her son “a block away to get a loaf of bread.”

She added that when the community contacts the police, the response is poor, stating they have been responding “two to three hours” after the crime is reported.

One resident shared a story of a robber breaking into her home — through her daughter’s window; another resident said she had been assaulted twice near her home and the police did not make any arrests either time.

Retired businessman Mark Kearney cited “chronic drug dealing” and “prostitution” as some of the few illegal activities taking place near his home.

After speaking out at Thursday’s meeting, he said he hoped to see an improved response from the police department.

“My frustration is that a lot of what the city officials recommend we do has been done — over and over. We’ve done neighborhood watch. We’ve called 911. We’ve done 311, we’ve contacted the captain of the district and things continue to stay at the status quo,” Kearney said. “We need to have a very visible police presence of police officers who have the resources, the training and also are held accountable and responsible for enforcing the law.”

Residents advocated for a “mini-police station,” but Ramsey said that was absolutely not an option.

“I’m not opening a mini-station,” he said. “I don’t have the resources, the money or the personnel. The last thing I need is another piece of crap to put my officers in.” Instead, he said, he would be open to installing cameras in the area. But, the neighborhood’s fiber optics infrastructure, according to some officers, currently doesn’t support such installations.

Other solutions devised at the meeting included establishing better relationships between law enforcement and increasing police “presence.”

“It’s all about relationships — all about contacting folks,” Ramsey said. “We’ve got to work together to deal with people who can cause the problems.”

Thirty-ninth district police captain Michael Craighead said residents should email him the details of the illegal activity taking place — including addresses, suspect descriptions, time and location patterns of criminal activity, so officers can respond accordingly.

Craighead noted even though residents were complaining of a lack of responsiveness, they could expect differently from his office.

“If they communicate with me, I will respond to their needs,” he said. “I get hundreds of emails a day, but I have people who check them for me and for any issue that has an immediate need, they will tell me ‘this needs to be addressed immediately.’ I challenge [residents] to email my office with an issue and see if it’s unresponsive.”

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