“No one ever talks about anything but the shootings,” said Greg Brinkley from his living room at the Abbottsford Homes public housing complex near East Falls. “The perception is that we only have shootings and nothing else, and we don’t want to be viewed with that negative light.”
Brinkley was elected this week by his fellow residents to be one of five executive members of the neighborhood’s recently reinstated resident association. The election was held in the Abbottsford Community Center, and marks the first time in six years that Abbottsford has had an association of this type.
“I think we got away from having residents feel safe by not having the leadership to facilitate it,” Brinkley said.
Brinkley, a resident of Abbottsford for more than 40 years, said that he views the resident association as the “cavalry,” referring to the group’s plans to peacefully put an end to the recent outbursts of violent crime in the area.
Getting rid of gun violence
Earlier this month, Chris Curry of Germantown was fatally shot by an unidentified shooter, a crime that Brinkley called “senseless.” Several other shootings have also occurred in the neighborhood in recent years.
“All of the people that won election have been up here a long time,” Brinkley said of the four other elected residents, including Marvina Furlow, Vivian Hughes, Audrey Hood and Catrina Rogers. “We have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of Abbottsford. We’re family in Abbottsford, and family has differences, but we need to get out the message that we aren’t going to settle them with guns.”
The resident association’s members will contact the 39th Police District in the coming weeks and request more frequent police patrols, which both Brinkley and Furlow said are rarely seen in the neighborhood.
“Before, we had police riding around,” Furlow said. “We don’t have that anymore unless something bad happens up here.”
Brinkley and Furlow noted that, historically, Abbottsford was relatively crime-free, as older, “respected” residents were able to mediate disputes between younger people that occurred in the neighborhood. In recent years, they said, a lack of formal leadership has caused a breakdown in communication between the respected older residents and younger residents.
Creating opportunities for youth
Furlow, who raised her two children in Abbottsford said that she and other residents had once helped to create a series of programs for younger people, such as a day care, as well as a color guard and drill team that performed at local venues and parades.
“The things that we were doing up here were used as an example by the [Philadelphia] Housing Authority and used in other housing projects,” Furlow said. “They showed kids that they can do more with their lives.”
She said she hopes to bring similar programs back to Abbottsford in the near future, along with a youth committee that will feed the resident association programming ideas for young residents.
“We also want to start showing our children that it’s about catching your own fish rather than just having someone feed it to you,” Brinkley added. “They have to start thinking like that and we want to put opportunities in front of them so they can.”
Reigniting a sense of community
The resident association also plans to bring local businesses, such as those in the nearby ShopRite-anchored shopping complex slated to open in the coming months, to the area for job recruitment and sponsorships.
Brinkley and Furlow said they hope that the resident association’s planned course of action would again bring the community together. Brinkley added that much of the violence in past years was caused by the “no snitching” mentality that developed among residents, who had lost the sense of community that Abbottsford’s population once had.
“I understand the danger out there [for ‘snitching’], but the flip side is that there’s danger now anyway,” Brinkley said. “I’d rather die doing something worthy rather than die stinking up the joint.”