City Council hears of crime at Philly parks, recreation facilities

Philadelphia residents and park lovers are asking city leaders to better protect their favorite spaces. At a committee hearing Thursday, members of Philadelphia City Council heard testimony about problems at the city’s parks and public recreation facilities — after a rash of crimes at some of those sites.

Councilwoman Cindy Bass said the recent incidents at the recreation sites are troubling.

“In my district, we had three people shot at the Wister Playground,” Bass said. “Not too long ago, a girl was raped at Myers Rec. We want our parks and recreation system to be amenities that the entire city can enjoy whether it’s young children or their families and parents.

“But if people don’t feel safe, then they won’t,” she said.

Bass said she’s working to gather information about the extent of the problems and looking for short-term and long-term solutions. They could include an increased security presence, as well as more lighting and community involvement.

Tessa Renshaw, who testified Thursday, said she knows about the problems a Kensington park is facing. She’s the community outreach manager for the Friends of the Free Library of Philadelphia and a community activist with Friends of Hissy Playground.

“McPherson Square Park is nicknamed ‘Needle Park.’ The library is directly in the center of the park. There has to be a solution to give it back to the children and let them attend their local library in peace,” Renshaw said. “When you walk up into the library, there’s so many needles present you can find some every day. Children have been pricked.”

Raymond Gant, the co-founder of a nonprofit called The Ray of Hope Project, said City Council needs to understand the toll crime is taking.

“I know the cops are doing the best they can,” Gant said. “Everybody on a short leash right now, budgets is bad for everybody, but man, being up in Kensington, there’s something going on all the time, so I can imagine how many priority calls they have — where they can’t just be in McPherson Square.”

Gant said he sees how many security officers there are at parks in Center City — even clearing homeless people off benches — and wonders why Kensington isn’t better patrolled.

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