Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams held a Thursday night town-hall meeting to introduce his staff to residents in and near West Oak Lane, and discuss cooperative crime-prevention approaches.
State Sen. LeAnna Washington was first to speak at the event, which was held at Oxford Presbyterian Church, 8501 Stenton Ave.
She attended as both an elected official and crime victim.
“I live around the corner and my house was broken into,” said Washington, whose Fourth District covers parts of Northwest Philadelphia and Mongtomery County.
“I’m here tonight because I want us to not be lax in our activities,” she continued. “Pay attention to what’s happening. It hurt my soul when they went into my house.”
Washington said the burglars took a fur coat, laptop computer, jewelry and designer handbags from her home earlier this month.
“The violent crime we hear about, it really affects us and we are afraid of that, [but] that’s only about five percent of the crime in the city of Philadelphia,” Williams said. “The other 95 [percent] are crimes that we can prevent.”
When the focus shifted toward techniques for preventing non-violent crimes, Williams suggested forming town-watch groups, getting security systems for homes, leaving a light on at night and even having a dog.
He was joined by several members of his staff.
“My goal was to bring the DAs to the neighborhoods,” Williams said. “[They’re] not just in a castle downtown, but to be where the people are. So, really use them.”
DA’s local team speaks
Matthew Connolly, assistant chief of the District Attorney’s Northwest Bureau, discussed his responsibilities and goals.
“I try to work with the DAs … to identify the worst offenders in the Northwest Bureau,” Connolly said. “There’s only a handful. The DA often says there’s a very small percentage of people that make life miserable for everybody else.”
Beth Grossman, chief assistant district attorney of the Public Nuisance Task Force, fields complaints of drug activities, nuisance bars and overall problem properties that come in, among other ways, via the (215) 686-5858 hotline
“We just want to get the problems completely out of the neighborhood,” she said, “and we want a homeowner or landlord to be responsible for his or her property.”
The floor was opened to residents for an hour so they could ask specific questions of Williams and DA’s office orepresentatives.
Patricia Dean, who has lived in West Oak Lane for 37 years, said she came to the town hall meeting because the community’s demographics are changing.
“Our neighborhood is being taken over by young folks. A lot of crime has been picking up since I moved here, and a lot of drug [activity] that used to not be in our neighborhood is in our neighborhood,” Dean said.
“I feel a little more encouraged that something can be done,” she continued. “There are different organizations that are willing to work here now [that wouldn’t] in the past. I think the breakdown of the district attorneys, numbers we can use to help us report what we see, I think it’s very good.”
Residents who witness, or are victimized by, crime victims or witnesses to crime can report them to thewere also invited to report it at the DA Office’s Community Action Center, 7175 Ogontz Ave.