Neighbors encouraged to stay vigilant in light of recent crime

In a 2012 photo from a meeting about Port Richmond safety, from left: PROPAC president Ken Paul; 24th Police District community relations officer Tina Willis; Police Service Area 3 commander Lt. Ron Paul and PRTW treasurer Pat Healey. STAR PHOTO

Philadelphia Police Department District 24 Captain Charles Vogt said he’s not seeing an uptick of crime in Port Richmond, despite what some neighbors might feel. With a limited number of police resources available, he said, residents have to help be the eyes and ears of the neighborhood.

Sean Sullivan, 24, a Connecticut native who moved to Philadelphia two years ago, was walking to Allegheny Avenue at about 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1, when he was attacked by a group of teenagers.

“Probably a block before Allegheny, I passed a group of 15 to 20 kids, and didn’t think about it,” Sullivan said. “Then, as I’m going down Edgemont, one of them got me in the back of the head. As soon as I turned to see what was happening, I got a barrage of hits everywhere.”

The 6’3”, 190-pound Sullivan was overwhelmed by a group of 10 to 12 teenagers actively punching and kicking him from all sides, he said.

Luckily, a woman who resides on Edgemont Street heard the fracas and opened her door, urging Sullivan to come inside. The police arrived 10 minutes later.

Sullivan said police are working with him to identify the attackers. Sullivan said that the woman who assisted him told police she recognized the attackers as students from Douglas High School, and said that she and a crossing guard would be able to identify them.

It was an incident that sparked a conversation on the Port Richmond Town Watch’s Facebook page, where neighbors discussed what they perceived to be an increase in criminal activity in Port Richmond, as evidence by Sullivan’s attack and other recent crimes.

Jacquelyn LaValle Pierce, who just moved to Almond and Ontario streets, said she never used to be afraid to walk alone in Port Richmond, but now, she’s uneasy.

“I think it [crime] has gotten worse,” she said. “We need more cops to patrol, that is our biggest problem.”

Ken Paul, president of Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic (PROPAC), is aware of the attack on Sullivan, and said he thinks violence in Port Richmond is on the rise right now, but police officers from the 24th district don’t have the manpower to chase down every kid getting into trouble.

“There’s only so many cops. The 24th district is huge. Everybody seems to think they should all be patrolling on the Port Richmond side, but the other side, Kensington, that’s the O.K. Corral,” Paul said. “People are like, ‘They need to hire more [cops],’ but where’s the money for that going to come from?”

The key to controlling this type of violence, Paul said, is parental involvement and community awareness.

“Parents need to know what their kids are doing. Everybody says, ‘Oh, it’s not my kid, my kid’s an angel.’ Half these parents don’t know where their kids go,” Paul said. “If you don’t control them, that’s when you lose control of your neighborhood.”

Capt. Charles Vogt of the Philadelphia Police Department’s 24th district said the East Detectives division is investigating the attack on Sullivan, but declined to comment on whether the attackers went to any specific school.

Vogt said locals should not be fearful of increased daylight violence in Port Richmond.

“When it comes to violent crime, I’m not seeing any uptick,” he said.“They [locals] shouldn’t be any more concerned than they were before it happened,” Vogt said. “It’s the first such incident I’ve had in that area, and it’s not like we have a pattern in that area.”

Vogt said that 24th district officers on patrol and school police officers are aware of the attack and will be monitoring the area where it took place.

Port Richmond Town Watch leaders do report to the 24th District the incidents they see in the neighborhood, and 24th District officers are present at meetings of Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic and the Port Richmond Community Group to report crime statistics to attendees and address concerns.

Vogt continued, “We don’t see the violence in Port Richmond like we see in the rest of the 24th district, particularly Kensington and Harrowgate. In Port Richmond and Juniata Park, it’s property crimes, like auto thefts and burglaries, that are often a problem.”

He said the district has limited resources and has to focus those resources where they’re most needed.

Vogt said that he added a fourth patrol car to serve Port Richmond after becoming captain of the 24th district 15 months ago.

He also pointed out that there are two police officers in patrol cars that exclusively work on Aramingo Avenue, a plainclothes burglaries team that patrols Port Richmond, and two 24th district officers assigned to work school districts.

“I’m guessing people go up to Kensington Avenue, they see bike cops going up and down and officer on foot beats, and no, you don’t see that in Port Richmond, but we do have the coverage. They’re out there,” Capt. Vogt said.

On the Town Watch page, group members urged residents to be “the eyes and ears” of their neighborhood, since the cops can’t do it all alone.

Capt. Vogt urged residents of Port Richmond to contact the 24th district at 215–686–3240 to report illegal activity or to call the 24th district’s tip line at 215–685–3281.

Star Managing Editor Mikala Jamison can be reached at 215–354–3113 or at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

Reporter Sam Newhouse can be reached at 215–354–3124 or snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.