Capt. Johnson expands beat cop presence and explains multitasking strategy for officers

They’re back!

Or, as Philadelphia Police officials insist – they never left.

Clarifying his department’s aims, Captain Verdell Johnson, Commanding Officer of the 39th Police District, is not only retaining beat officers in East Falls – he’s expanding their presence. This decision comes on the heels of an article in February’s edition of “The Fallser” that reported Captain Johnson would be reducing the patrols, effective this month.

Previously, one bike officer was assigned to patrol the Ridge and Midvale corridor between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. In addition, officers in patrol vehicles were assigned to monitor this sector between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m., according to Captain Johnson.

Going forward, he said East Falls will now have bike patrol Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Furthermore, two officers assigned to patrol cars will share responsibility for East Falls, and man their posts from 8 a.m. to midnight, when accounting for a shift change.

However, the two beat officers – Officers Randy Modres and Andy Drobonick, who have additional training as crime scene technicians – will be pulled from their patrols as necessary to process burglary crime scenes throughout the entire 39th District.

How often their special training will be utilized depends upon the volume of burglaries, explained Captain Johnson, but he emphasized that this multitasking approach is a means of maximizing available resources.

“It’s a way of getting the most out of the officers,” Captain Johnson said.

Community concern and Captain’s reaction

Reacting to what were originally informal accounts, local leaders conveyed their frustration to the community – and to the Captain.

In February’s edition of “The Fallser”, Fallser Editor Julie Camburn and East Falls Development Corporation [EFDC] Executive Director Gina Snyder co-authored a piece lamenting a proposed reduction of beat officers in their neighborhood and business district by Captain Johnson.

As reported in the Fallser, the officers were to be pulled from their posts this month in response to a spike in burglaries occurring in the 39th District, which services East Falls and sections of North Philadelphia and Germantown.

This was a bitter pill to swallow for neighborhood leaders accustomed to community-based policing.

“The East Falls Business Association and the EFDC,” they wrote, “are concerned…about the reduction in police presence in the oncoming summer months, when illegal outside behavior increases significantly.”

Also troubling was the loss of dedicated patrol at night, a service they deemed “critical” to local businesses.

Relaying his strategy to Newsworks, Captain Johnson said the situation was not so much a matter of eliminating patrols as it was capitalizing upon deployment possibilities. He suggested that a misunderstanding between his office and community leaders may have occurred.

Personal investment in police presence

While it will mean that East Falls’ residents and business owners will lose dedicated coverage while crime scenes are being processed, Johnson insisted that this will be the only occurrence in which officers will be recalled from their posts.

Snyder is pleased with the Captain’s responsiveness to neighborhood entreaties.

“We feel that he’s being very responsive – he knows the area, and heard us in our desire to improve police coverage (in East Falls).”

As the EFDC originally requested the assignment of beat officers to East Falls about 10 years ago, Snyder expressed a sense of personal investment in maintaining local police presence.

“We got them here,” she said, “and we want to keep them here.”

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