Saturday, March 19, 2005

Rittenhouse Square = Kensington = Philadelphia

Some musings on ways to "fix" North Philadelphia:

1. The Mayor, the District Attorney, the Police
Commissioner, the entire city council and the heads of
all the major churches in the area need to go up to where
the trouble is and admit to the residents that the
government can do nothing to fix this. Tell the people,
in no uncertain terms, that only they can resolve these
problems. Let them know that the city government stands
ready to assist them, but, THEY have to do it.

2. Ask for local "deputies". These will be people who pass
a background check and have several local folks vouch for
them. They will be given weapons and training and asked
to put in a couple of hours every day patrolling their
local neighborhoods. Their "official" status will not
extend beyond the couple of blocks they're assigned.
These people will be given equipment enough to stay in
touch with each other, so that they can support each
other. Also, they will be given the power of arrest.
However, this power should be limited to ONLY areas of
gang and drug related violence. They should not be
able to make arrests for possession of drugs or any
NON-violent crime. On the other hand, let it be known
that they will report to the police the license plate
numbers of those who come into these areas to buy drugs.
These people will be much more likely to get the kind of
support from the community that the Police Department has
not been able to do. Think of it as a very muscular
"Town Watch".

3. The police are going to have to win the hearts and minds
of the residents of North Philadelphia the same as our
troops are doing in Iraq. Tragic, but true. Ignore the
guy smoking weed and maybe he'll tell you about gang
activity nearby. If everybody runs when you show up,
you're not going to get much done. Once the rule of law
has been re-established, then you can go back to
enforcing all the laws.

4. The Police should help to organize people in rebuilding
the sense of community up there. They can do this by
organizing and protecting clean-ups and the other
community reclamation exercises. Please remember the
success NYC had when it started to insist on broken
windows being fixed and litter being cleaned up. If the
police are seen to be "helping" as defined by the
residents, then you may get some more cooperation.

5. Get the rest of the city involved. It is ONE city. All
of us should be as willing to help out in Kensington as
we would be on our own street. No one in Rittenhouse
Square likes to see or hear Philadelphia's shortcomings
trumpeted in the national media.

6. Give the residents more say over what happens in their neighborhoods. If they believe they can affect the outcome, they will get involved. Hold court for North Philadelphia offenders in North Philadelphia, using North Philadelphian juries. Let people see that they CAN make a difference and that others care, too.

Make no mistake, things will get worse before they get better. But that is no reason not to try.


Post a Comment

<< Home