East Falls Town Watch on the lookout for crime (and new members) at National Night Out event

East Falls Town Watch volunteers participated in the 29th Annual National Night Out on Tuesday night, in hopes of deterring crime while encouraging community cohesion.

The volunteers sat on the front porch of the Carfax building on 3540 Indian Queen Lane, serving pretzels and lemonade for the few visitors who came by on an otherwise quiet Tuesday evening.

Treasurer Pat Adams says the East Falls Town Watch could use more young volunteers, as the group’s membership mostly consists of a shrinking core of older members. 

“People used to sit on their porches every night,” says Adams, who moved to East Falls in 1981. “Now they sit in the air conditioning and watch television.”

Adams hoped the guest appearance from a Philadelphia Fire Department truck would grab the attention of youngsters and encourage them to get more involved in their neighborhood. She said neighborhood walks and night walks are both deterrents against neighborhood crime. She noted that she’s seen more crime in the neighborhood as of recently — a car burglary on the 3400 block of Midvale Avenue and a house burglary across the street from the East Falls Town Watch headquarters. 

39th District Police officer Joe Lukaitis says most burglary thefts are crimes of opportunities, occurring when people leave valuables in their unlocked cars or in public places. 

“The way I see it, if you can see something valuable in your car, so can the criminal,” says Lukaitis, who visits the East Falls Town Watch’s night out every summer.

Lukaitis says he organized a community association in his South Philadelphia neighborhood, before joining the Philadelphia police force 16 years ago to patrol the 39th District, which includes East Falls.

“It’s about community coming coming together. Neighborhood groups were the first police in the 1800s,” Lukaitis says.

East Falls native Michelle McDaniels was one of the new faces to attend the East Falls Town Watch’s night out event. McDaniels had returned to East Falls in May, after living in North Carolina for 10 years.

“We tried a similar organization 20 years ago called the East Falls Task Force, but it fell apart after a while,” McDaniels says.

79-year-old Leon Joshlin moved to East Falls in 1961 from Memphis, Tenn., and began volunteering at the Old Academy Players shortly after. He lived in the Old Academy Carfax building for more than 30 years, before relocating to Germantown in 2002.

“I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs with this neighborhood,” Joshlin says. The group encourages new members to stop by the next East Falls Town Watch meeting on Thursday, Aug. 9, at 7:30 p.m. at 3540 Indian Queen Lane. 

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