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Weary Residents' Skepticism Greets Philly Policing Strategy

In what could be called Philadelphia's Bullet Belt, four police districts stretching across the city accounted for 43 percent of all shootings within the police department's 21 districts last year. An initiative begun Jan. 9 sent 100 additional police officers to those districts, in Kensington, North Philadelphia and parts of Germantown, aiming to quell the violence following a second straight year with more than 500 homicides in the city. The Trace reports that the program touted as one of the city's largest redeployments by Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw has yet to slow the pace of shootings or convince skeptical residents that anything has changed. Although it is far too early to measure the program's effectiveness, residents question whether enough officers were sent, and whether sending more officers is enough. “Cops see a fight and they don’t do nothing," a Kensington store employee, Confesor Leon, said. "So what’s going to change? You can’t stop the hustle out here."

The four neighborhoods where the newly deployed officers will be spending their time have suffered decades of subpar public schools, economic disinvestment and the accompanying evils of poverty and violence. Stanley Crawford, president and CEO of the Black Male Community Council of Philadelphia and founder of the council’s Families of Unsolved Murders Project, noted that he’s only seen officers sitting stationary in cars. From his perspective, that keeps them from making much impact on the crime they’re supposedly there to prevent.

“They need to get out of their patrol cars and move about and get to know the people,” he said. “The same people on those corners today will be on those corners tomorrow. If you’re going to be in their community you cannot police an area sitting in a car." Some residents were still unaware that more officers were present, or doubtful the city had actually deployed them. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” Anibal Quintana, 55, said as he carried groceries from his car to his home in Hunting Park. “So many things have been promised to us, and we haven’t got to the promised land.” Some of the officers said they believe they are making a difference. “It’s going well. It seems like we’re out here doing our job. We get out, walk around, say what’s up to the people in the neighborhood,” said Officer Robert Harris, a 25-year veteran who was parked with his partner on Kensington Avenue. “Just earlier, we were at Walgreens, and the lady was ecstatic to see us.”


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