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Philadelphia Nearly Tripling Police In Drug-Plagued Kensington Area

This week, Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood will see its police force nearly triple, adding 75 rookie officers straight from the academy, marking a significant step in the city's latest effort to dismantle the area's open-air drug market. Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel said the new officers will patrol the area on foot and bicycle, and begin enforcing stricter drug laws this summer. Bethel said enforcement could increase “very quickly” after a warning period that began last week, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. While some residents cheer the officers’ arrival, the lead-up to this phase of the plan for the neighborhood has left others with wariness and skepticism over what’s next. After the removal of a homeless encampment last month and the wave of displacement that followed, concerns linger about whether the new resources will be effective in providing relief, or just shifting problems around the neighborhood and surrounding areas.

The rookies will report on Tuesday and are expected to hit the streets later in the week. Ahead of the new enforcement, city agencies conducted a quality-of-life sweep. On Thursday, 22 unregistered cars were towed, and seven stolen vehicles were taken into custody, said Sgt. Eric Gripp. Nine vacant houses were sealed, 18 lots were cleaned, and four nuisance businesses were given stop-work orders. The police department’s narcotics unit has also been newly focused on the neighborhood, and will be for some time, Gripp said. In the last two weeks, he said, 49 people have been arrested for drug-related crimes, and officers recovered $255,000 worth of drugs, $16,000 in cash, and four guns. Thee number of arrests for drug sales so far this year is on par with the last four years, according to data from the district attorney’s office.


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