Residents, city officials come together to address growing crime

NORTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Police reached out to folks in North Philadelphia Thursday night, trying to bridge the gap between officers and residents who don't always trust the beat cops who patrol their streets.

Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Tyree Blocker was among those present, trying to address the crime and pestilence taking root across the city.

"We're in a very challenging area in the 25th District. We're No. 1 in everything bad," said Philadelphia Police Capt. Michael Cram.

State Rep. Leslie Acosta painted the grim reality of what's going on in her district, which encompasses Kensington and North Philadelphia.

So far this year, homicides are up 17 percent, shootings up 44 percent, aggravated assault up 9 percent and gun crimes up 34 percent.

"We've seen this spike. I call it a public crisis, and we have to do something about it," said Leslie Acosta (D-197th Legislative District).

Police will tell you as they have time and time again, they can't do it alone.

"When we have success in my experience is because neighbors have had enough, stood up together - not separate, together - and have taken the neighborhoods back," said Capt. Cram.

But some point out that relations between police and some of the communities they serve have been strained, and sometimes pushed aside by a host of issues that need to be addressed.

"We have bad officers just like there are bad community members. What we have to do is weed them out," said SEPTA Police Chief Tom Nestel.

Community members pointed out that they, too, had some house cleaning to do.

"Where is our youth at? We definitely need our youth to be into this room. We need to stop talking down to them and tell them that we do need their help," said Mel Wells, One Day at a Time.

For the record, some residents wanted officials to know that they have witnessed good cops out there working hard.

"There are officers out there who are, as the boys put it, putting in the work, getting stuff done," said the Rev Mike Major, Zion Baptist Church.

All in all, most seem to think the meeting was productive, that the seeds have been planted for what they hope will be a successful partnership in addressing crime in their neighborhoods.
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