Block captains' event held in West Phila.

Posted: August 05, 2014

DEPUTY POLICE Commissioner Kevin Bethel doesn't rely just on commanders and patrol units to keep the city safe, he told the West Philadelphia school classroom full of block captains.

"A lot of that work done is not just policing. It's done by what you and the folks in the room are doing every day," Bethel said. "The work you're doing matters. . . . It makes my job a heck of a lot easier."

Bethel spoke Saturday during one of six workshops offered by the 2014 West/Southwest Block Captains Forum at the Boys Latin of Philadelphia Charter School, on Cedar Avenue near 55th Street. Dozens of block captains attended.

"A block captain's role is to try to serve their neighborhoods, try to help them with safety, help them with services to the city," Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who was at the event briefly, told the Daily News. "They're trying to improve the quality of life across the city."

The skills-building and networking event, organized by the Partnership Community Development Corp. and other local groups, aimed to connect block captains to each other and to information for their respective blocks, said Leon Robinson, community organizer for the Partnership. Workshops included Community Organizing 101, Computer and Internet Training, and Recruiting Block Captains.

That last one is particularly vital these days, Robinson said.

"Block captains have become an inherited role," he said. Many block captains tend to be older and have been on the job for many years. Younger residents may not want to take over the baton, he said. "It's just how it is."

But some do. When Diane Poulson-Venn returned to her Cobbs Creek home after 33 years, she saw a very different neighborhood from the one in which she grew up, she said recently.

Some young men, for example, had begun playing pickup basketball games in the middle of Irving Street near 55th using a movable basketball hoop stand, Poulson-Venn said. They'd play all day and night, disturbing other neighbors, especially seniors, she said.

Poulson-Venn, a retired social worker, worked with 18th District police, who eventually removed the hoops from a vacant house where they were stored. Impressed with the outcome, the Irving Street residents asked the native daughter to be their block captain.

She complied, especially after one of the young players paid her a visit. He "was not happy with my involvement," Poulson-Venn said. "I just decided no one is going to dictate to me how things are going to be run on behalf of myself and those seniors who need representation."


On Twitter: @ReginaMedina

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