National Night Out looks to build police-community partnerships

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National Night Out looks to build police-community relations. Dann Cuellar reports during Action News at 11 p.m. on July 31, 2017. (WPVI)

Philadelphia's murder rate has spiked dramatically since last year.

Now the police department is hoping a nationwide initiative can help build bridges with residents and fight crime.

Mayor Jim Kenney spoke at a National Night Out kickoff event in Overbrook Monday night, an annual event promoting police-community partnerships and camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer.

"The nonsense you are hearing out of Washington these days is a disgrace," Kenney said.

From the point of view of some of those on hand, it's going to take a lot of work to repair those partnerships.

"Rebuilding the trust is going to take a lot, going to take a lot on everybody's part, not just the police, it's going to take a lot on our part as citizens," Leona Levitt of South Philadelphia said.

Increasingly, police will say that the culture of 'no-snitching' is hard to overcome, and in that instance, nobody wins. They say murders in the city neighborhoods go unsolved and police clearance rates for murders continue to decline.

So far this year, police statistics show the murder rate is at 182, that's a 13% increase for the same period last year.

For his part, Mayor Kenney says there's blame to go all around.

"Continuing to improve community relations by being out there with the community, making sure that we bring down unconstitutional stop and frisk, and treat people with respect on the street," Kenney said.

The mayor says the city is down 72% in unconstitutional stop and frisk cases since he came into office. Allegations of police brutality fuels distrust in minority communities, and, he says, the rhetoric coming out of Washington is not helping.

"We need to continue to make sure our immigrant communities are not afraid to call the police, so things that Jeff Sessions says, the President of the United States says about 'roughing up prisoners' chills the interaction between police and the community," Kenney said.

Residents have their own views.

"I think we also need to address some of the police brutality issues. I think over time, it will help," Overbrook resident Anthony Patterson said.

"The more the police are involved with us in activities like this, like National Night Out, it builds up trust," Teckla Cartwright of Overbrook Park said.

Observers say, clearly, the trend did not begin overnight and it will not be fixed overnight either.
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