Mt. Airy holds ‘Crime Summit’ to address rise in burglaries

The Philadelphia police confirmed what many people in Northwest Philadelphia have suspected all along; the number of burglaries is slightly higher.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, a Mt. Airy resident, speaking last night at a neighborhood meeting said citywide there are 14 percent more burglaries over this time last year.

Ramsey made his comments last night to the joint meeting of West Mt. Airy Neighbors (WMAN) and East Mt. Airy Neighbors (EMAN). More than 100 people packed into Benbow Hall in the Brossman Center on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia to hear Ramsey and other law enforcement officials discussing crime prevention techniques.

With the rash of crime in the area over the last few months, the two community groups felt it necessary to dedicate their annual joint meeting to the issue of crime.

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About ten special guests were in attendance, ranging from Commissioner Ramsey, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, and federal prosecutors. While each of their individual roles may be different, each emphasized the need to work together as a community.

“We need your eyes and ears,” said Joel Dales, Captain of the 14th Police District.

The theme of the night seemed to be burglaries—when the community was given an opportunity to ask questions, most seemed concerned with property crimes. “It just takes a few seconds to get ripped off,” Ramsey said, adding that burglary is a “crime where prevention is key.”

DA Seth Williams stated that most of crimes that are occurring are crimes of opportunity. Things like leaving a back door open, or keys in a car provide criminals with an easy opportunity for theft.

Recidivism was another key thread on the evening. Williams stated that five percent of criminals are causing 60 percent of all crimes in the city. He and Ramsey both pointed out the need to reduce the rate of recidivism. Williams added that the number one trait arrestees have in common is the lack of a high school diploma.

Several audience members and special guests gave information about town watch groups, as well as specific units of the police department, to increase awareness, participation and organization.

After the meeting came to a close, several people stayed behind to talk to their neighbors or ask more questions of the officials present. Johannes Ponsen and Maurice Sampson stayed seated in the back row of Benbow Hall, expressing hope that things would change in the neighborhood.

“I hate to say this but there’s nothing like a good crime wave to get people organized,” Sampson said.

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