Crime Blocks: Olde Richmond Residents Discuss How to Avert Gun Violence Following Shooting
On November 7th, a teenager was fatally shot at the corner of Trenton and Firth in Olde Richmond. According to Dan Martino, a community organizer with the Olde Richmond Civic Association (ORCA), the tragic shooting was part of an escalation of problems with a gang of teenagers who had been harassing people in that area. It was the first homicide in Olde Richmond since 2011.
On November 10th, ORCA held a meeting at St. Michael’s, a church on the block where the incident occurred, to discuss how tragedies like this might be averted. About 100 people were in attendance.
“Basically, the takeaway was that we need more community involvement,” Martino said. “When something happens, when someone’s threatened, you need to call the police.”
The police can’t do much about misdemeanors unless the perpetrator is caught in the act. However Martino cited the three-dozen security cameras recently installed in the neighborhood as part of an ORCA initiative to get more eyes on the street.
“People have been saying these kids have been threatening them with knives and firecrackers and if that’s caught on tape that’s a felony charge. That’s when you can take action,” said Martino. He hopes that the threat of actual prosecution will help to quell the menacing some residents are experiencing.
Captain George Kappe of the 26th Police District seconded Martino’s advice.
“If you feel there is something that we need to address, dial 911,” Kappe said. “If there is a chronic problem, call the 26th District directly and make a complaint. We’ll make note of it and be able to have more consistent patrols around the area in question.”
However, these are all measures that must be taken after an actual incident occurs. Martino, Kappe and their organizations are also interested in taking proactive measures to try to ensure this kind of violence and criminal mischief doesn’t happen in the first place. After all, the children and teenagers perpetrating these crimes are victims too, in the sense that this kind of behavior is counteractive to a healthy and productive lifestyle.
Both Martino and Kappe are excited about the prospect of the Police Athletic League (PAL) opening up a location in the 26th District. PAL is an organization which provides after-school activities for youth in underserved neighborhoods. Activities at PAL centers range from sports to chess clubs, computer classes and tutoring. With the help of a $250,000 grant from the Olde Kensington Senior Housing Associates, it is confirmed that a PAL center is coming to the 26th District. However, the location of the center is still to be determined.
Martino also emphasized the importance of communication between community organizations in the wake of this tragedy. Trenton and Firth is right on the border of Olde Richmond and East Kensington, so members of the East Kensington Neighborhood Association (EKNA) were also present at the November 10th meeting.
EKNA President, Nic Esposito, agrees with Martino on the idea of increased communication between community organizations. He believes that a consistent exchange of ideas between organizations would allow community leaders to learn from each other’s experience. He’s also on board with finding proactive ideas to address the problem of youth violence in these neighborhoods.
“The question we should be considering is how do we engage youth from the end of the school day to curfew?” Esposito said. “If this is the problem, we need to solve it as a community.”
Esposito wants to focus on these proactive solutions. He has an idea for an iteration of the National Night Out program, in which, on a designated night, community residents would all come out, sit on their stoops and talk to each other. The goal here is to get neighbors to know each other better and in turn create a more present community.
“We all need to know who our neighbors are,” Esposito said.
Communication is key in strengthening neighborhoods and, in the age of the internet, some of that communication takes place online. Laura Tepper is the moderator of “Safer Streets for Fishtown, East Kensington, and Olde Richmond,” a closed Facebook group which acts as a forum for neighbors to discuss local crime problems.
“Our goal is to provide a place where neighbors can share experiences without fear and with the common goal of increasing safety in the community,” Tepper said via email. “We work with the 26th District to provide information, including security video footage, whenever possible. Sadly, our work did not prevent the shooting but we remain committed to working with the PPD across neighborhood boundaries to increase safety in 19125.”
Tepper went on to suggest that, “concerned residents may request to join the group on Facebook and we also encourage neighbors to attend the ORCA Townwatch meeting on December 14th at St. Michael’s church. It is open to all neighbors in 19125 and is a good way to be involved offline.” •
More information about ORCA, EKNA and how to get involved is available on their Facebook pages and at http://www.olderichmond.org/ and https://ekna.org/