NE Philadelphians tell police: 'Split the 15th District!'

Posted: July 15, 2014

DONNY SMITH, president of the Mayfair Civic Association, wants to split the sprawling 15th Police District into two districts, with a guaranteed number of officers patrolling each neighborhood.

Right now, Smith said, the quieter neighborhoods like his suffer quality-of-life crimes, such as theft when cops are busy responding to the 15th's high-crime areas.

"We're a blue-collar neighborhood," Smith said. "People are at work all day. They don't want to come home to find their house was broken into because there aren't enough police patrolling the streets here. We want our fair share of police protection."

City Councilman Bobby Henon wants "The Split," too, and, beyond that, said that the whole 15th District needs a lot more cops.

He posted these eye-opening Police Department crime stats on his website:

The 15th led all Philadelphia police districts in Part One incidents - homicides, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, thefts - from 2006 to 2013, averaging 7,000 incidents per year.

In 2013, the 15th District's Part One incidents included 1,600 thefts, 1,000 thefts from vehicles, 800 residential burglaries, 700 aggravated assaults and 400 robberies.

Henon said that nearly 500 residents have signed an online petition calling for "The Split," at www.bobbyhenon.com/split.

Recently, Smith called a meeting of 15th District neighborhood leaders and said that Frankford, Bridesburg, Wissinoming, Tacony, Mayfair and Holmesburg residents all are supportive.

"The 15th District split could be 70/30," he said, "leaving the majority of police in high-crime neighborhoods but always having enough cops in other areas to deal with crimes like break-ins."

Harry Enggasser, a longtime resident who is vice president of the Bridesburg CDC, said that, fortunately, his community's crimes are nonviolent.

"It's a neighborhood [punk] going in the back door while an old lady's talking to somebody at the front door, and grabbing their pennies," he said.

Enggasser wants "The Split" because, he said: "When you call the police and you don't get any response for hours, people start getting a little pissy. I'm not banging the cops. I have family members who are cops. But in the 15th, they are spread thin.

"I'm not from Bridesburg originally," Enggasser said. "I'm from Front and Allegheny, right around the corner from a police station. I saw my neighborhood deteriorate until it was time to leave. I don't want to see that happen here."

Neither does Georgeanne Huff-Labovitz, president of the Tacony CDC and a lifelong resident, who said, "When 15th District cops are pulled to the worst parts of the district, it leaves the other parts empty, which means response time is not great.

"People around here don't even call the cops anymore because of response time. Who wants to sit around and wait for hours?"

Police don't publicize deployment specifics because, well, bad guys can read. But Henon said that Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross "gave me permission to publicly state that the Police Department is committed to assigning more police officers to the 15th District."

That would please Huff-Labovitz, who praised the 15th District beat cop who walks the Torresdale Avenue business corridor, where she owns Marie Huff Hairdressing.

"His presence makes it safer for everyone on the avenue," she said. "We need more cops like him."


On Twitter: @DanGeringer

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