A nod to fighting crime in Olde Richmond

ORCA recognized for Safe Streets program and overall impact on community

The site of the Thompson Street Tunnel prior to an ORCA cleanup. PHOTO: ORCA

By Melissa Komar

From rallying for a new playground, to starting a town watch, to supplying more than 65 blocks with security cameras, Olde Richmond Civic Association was busy in 2016.

The group’s impact on the neighborhood did not go unnoticed.

ORCA will received the this year’s Citizens Crime Commission Parx’s Award.

Established in 1954, the Citizens Crime Commission is a nonprofit that bridges the community of the Delaware Valley with the police, according to vice president Salvo Montecalvo.

“[ORCA] did so much in 2016 for their community,” he said. “They had the anti-graffiti program, town watch, playground renovations and Safe Streets.”

This year marks the 36th annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Day luncheon and the second time the Parx’s Award, which is sponsored by Parx Casino, will be given.

The site of the Thompson Street Tunnel is much improved after a Saturday morning cleanup by ORCA’s Clean Street volunteers. PHOTO: ORCA

According to the Citizens Crime Commission, the award is “to be presented to a private citizen or organization who gives of their time and energy to make the community safer. Crime prevention is key.”

For ORCA President Don Gould, the award is “a big thank you” for the residents’ hard work.

After forming a town watch, ORCA created “Safe Streets,” a security camera program for residents within the association’s borders aimed at cutting down crime in the 26th Police District.

Residents receive a free system, with up to four cameras. The resident pays for installation and has full access to film.

If a crime occurs on a particular block, ORCA will request the resident provide footage to the police to help in a case. Cameras must be registered with the city’s SafeCam program.

ORCA received a $50,000 grant from Penn Treaty Special Services District to expand the program.

The ultimate goal is to have every block covered, which adds up to about 200 security camera systems.

Inspector George Kappe, former 26th district captain, nominated ORCA for the award.

“ORCA was and is a great community partner. ORCA knew the police can’t be the only ones combating crime and understood the benefits a strong community-police relationship can have,” he said. “ORCA’s Safe Streets program was one step in making the community safer. Any time the police can have an extra set of ears and eyes helping us, the better we’re able to make a difference.”

In addition to Safe Streets, Kappe pointed out ORCA’s other recent initiatives.

“When I saw the criteria for the Parx’s Award offered by the Citizens Crime Commission, I immediately thought of ORCA and all that they had accomplished in 2016: Safe Streets, UnTag ORCA, Town Watch, Clean Streets, the grant from PTSSD and their efforts at Cione Playground. ORCA has a multi-prong approach to improve the quality of life in the community.”

Numbers indicate the Safe Streets program is working.

Up until Friday, April 21, a residential burglary had not been committed in ORCA territory in 95 days, beating every neighborhood in the city in total count for residential burglaries for this year thus far, according to ORCA member and PhillyBlotter app creator Chris Sawyer.

“In my opinion, one of the big reasons for this success is Safe Streets and the hard work and commitment of ORCA,” Kappe said.

Kristas Dahl Campbell, 26th district captain, confirmed the burglary-free streak.

“They are great partners and are doing great work over there,” she said.

When crime rates are low, finding residents to get on board with the initiative can be challenging.

“Because we had so many days without a residential burglary, it’s hard to give away the systems,” Gould said. “When we have a rash of burglaries, we would get emails left and right asking about the security system. But I’d rather have it this way.”

In addition to the crime and safety initiatives, ORCA recently added beautification to its list of projects with its new program, Clean Streets.

Spearheaded by “ORCA women,” Rose Thomas and Tracie Tuss, the ORCA crew has organized cleanups on every Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon, since mid-February.

“We pick a different location every weekend and rotate on a schedule,” Thomas said. “It’s divided into quadrants that Dan Martino made. We’re going to be out every weekend. The goal is that people see us how, come join us and then take the initiative to clean their own block regularly.”

Areas cleaned thus far include Cione Playground, the Thompson Street tunnel, Lehigh Avenue, the Dollar Plus Party Fair parking lot behind Wawa, and the Haggert and Almond streets lot.

At least 30 bags of trash are collected by about 20 volunteers, according to Gould.

“We definitely have people who are excited to do this,” Tuss said. “It’s a stress-reliever. You can make something look better than it was. And you don’t always have that opportunity during the week, so it’s kind of therapeutic.”

ORCA provides the cleanup supplies — and coffee and danishes — and CLIP picks up the trash.

“And then there’s Green Streets. Besides cleaning, we also want to make it a little greener in this part of town,” Tussle said. “We don’t have as many trees as we would like. It’s about giving people the tools and helping them get started. The whole point is to start the process and make people self-sufficient and want to be involved.”

ORCA plans to launch Green Streets in the upcoming weeks, and work with Tree Philly to obtain free trees for the area and other agencies and local businesses to get more street trash cans.

Green Streets will participate in the Trenton Street Arts Festival and provide details on a beautification project contest. Residents will be able to submit photos of how they are livening up the neighborhood. Prizes will be announced at the event.

Getting involved is as easy as showing up.

“Come out to an ORCA meeting or show up to a Saturday cleaning,” Thomas said. “It’s a great way to meet people. And it all contributes to one mission — safer streets and cleaner streets.”

“We want to make this a safe, clean and happy community, and the only way to do that is if people are involved,” Tuss said. “We’re working on it, but we need more. Everybody should come. We want everyone involved.”

Cleanup locations are posted on Facebook each week.

Gould is happy with the impact the organization is having on the community.

“We’re working on a good goal. Don’t you want a safe and clean community?” Gould said. “We’re getting there. ORCA is the place to be.”

ORCA Safe Streets offers installation rebates for corner properties, victims of a crime and senior citizens. For more information on security camera systems or to get involved in ORCA, visit the Olde Richmond Civic Association Facebook. Residents are welcome to submit cleanup location suggestions.