New 39th District captain aims for increased police presence in East Falls and neighborhood accountability

Three months into his tenure as commanding officer of the 39th Police District, Captain Michael Craighead addressed the residents of East Falls this week, briefing them on police activity and making a pitch for their assistance.

Co-sponsored by the East Falls Community Council and the East Falls Town Watch, Craighead made a presentation entitled “A New Partnership: Police and Community” that promoted the positive impact an active town watch program can have on its community.

Craighead took the helm of the 39th District in November, and is now responsible for a patrol area that includes East Falls, Southwest Germantown, and sections of North Philadelphia. A 20-plus year veteran of the Philadelphia Police, Craighead spent the 10 years prior to his present command as a lieutenant in the PPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau.

“I’m honored to be given this challenge of improving the quality of life in this area,” he said on Monday.

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He said that town watch groups can supplement police manpower, and that a police/community partnership can have a lasting impact on both crime and quality of life issues in the neighborhood.

“Town watch is a force multiplier for us,” he said.

He pointed to the many electronic avenues that residents now have to interact with police, including the department’s website, the iWatch smartphone app, and the 39th District’s new twitter handle, @39thdistrict.

Enhancing police presence in the 39th 

Craighead also addressed plans for police deployment and spoke about police response to a crime that recently occurred on a secluded East Falls street.

On Monday, Jan. 28, at 4:40 p.m., a resident of the 4000 block of Apalogen Rd. was robbed at gunpoint inside her East Falls home. The victim, described in police reports as being a 70-year-old female, came home from work that afternoon, followed by two suspects who subsequently took $600 in cash at gunpoint. At the time, police indicated that this was a targeted robbery.

During his presentation, Craighead indicated than an arrest was imminent. However, police spokespersons confirmed on Thursday that no apprehensions have occurred yet. 

At the meeting, some residents expressed concern that 911 calls made by neighbors at the time of the robbery did not indicate the severity of the incident. In response, Craighead said that callers should not hesitate to express the imminence of danger to 911 dispatchers.

In terms of deployment strategies, Craighead announced that several 39th District officers are now trained in speed enforcement techniques and will be available to issue tickets along Henry Avenue.

Craighead also said that officers will be seen patrolling the one-way Calumet St. Bridge, attempting to intercept motorists who illegally cross in the wrong direction. He indicated that motorists can expect citations, not warnings, and predicted that local residents will likely be the culprits.

Lastly, in response to burglaries and theft from autos, Craighead said that he will be deploying additional plainclothes officers to patrol East Falls, which he hopes will be effective in curbing property crimes.

He noted that the public bears a responsibility too.

“You have to protect yourself and your property,” said Craighead. “We’re working in the real world.”

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