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Police of the 26th District Pilot Friendly Approach to Fighting Crime

June 2, 2011

The police of the 26th District have been a huge asset in the SCI Eastern North planning and community engagement efforts. A few weeks ago, Citypaper covered their novel approach to crime prevention:

The idea of police treating neighborhood residents like, well, neighbors maybe shouldn’t be considered “radical.” But in a city rife with police scandals, and in a section of town where former Police Capt. Daniel Castro, who just faced federal charges of extortion, once worked, it’s perhaps the most radical thing to come along in a while.

Eight cops have been deployed to a few of the most blighted, crime-ridden North Philly neighborhoods in the nearby 26th Police District (under the command of Capt. Michael Cram). Their primary duty is to attend community meetings, clean up parks, bond with kids and basically do other “warm and fuzzy stuff,” as Jerry Ratcliffe, chair of Temple’s criminal justice department, puts it. Ratcliffe’s studies partly inspired the initiative, which Mayor Michael Nutter now wants expanded.

And they’re off to a good start:

Whether the program is going to change relations between the neighborhood and its police force, of course, remains to be seen. But Correa and Ramos, for their part at least, seemed to be genuinely popular, evoking much praise and a surprise that hinted at how rare such policing is: “I haven’t had a relationship with any other officers,” attested the Rev. Adan Mairena of the West Kensington Ministry, when they stopped by his Christian band’s jam session. He added, “Our kids out here are third-generation drug dealers. They have an inherited memory about police. They need to see that they aren’t just here to arrest you.”

But the program is “about changing the mindset of young police officers as to what their job is” — not just resident perceptions, says Temple’s Ratcliffe. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

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