On Thursday night, the new commanding officer of the 14th Police District came in from the cold to introduce himself and his new initiatives to Mount Airy residents.
Speaking at a meeting of the Mt. Airy-Nippon-Bryan-Cresheim Town Watch, Capt. John Fleming provided residents with an overview of the challenges facing the entire police district, and discussed potential police tactics that may be used to combat crime in their neighborhoods.
Fleming said that while the entire police district, which covers a large chunk of Northwest Philadelphia, has a strong middle class, pockets of violence are present in many sections.
He noted that violent crime is limited and that property offenses – theft from vehicles and burglaries – are the two biggest challenges both to residents and to police.
With regard to theft from vehicles, Fleming said that many are preventable, owing to items being left in plain-sight and to cars being left unlocked.
Asked if the cars were being left unlocked to prevent thieves from breaking windows, Fleming countered with an estimation that two-thirds of thefts are from unlocked vehicles.
With regard to home break-ins, Fleming said he is upping plainclothes burglary-prevention details in the neighborhoods, and boasted that the 14th has some of the most experienced officers in processing crime scenes.
In addition, officers are also beginning an end-run on thieves, with pawnshops and other potential fences coming under the close scrutiny of the police.
Overall, Fleming made sure to let residents know he is committed to crime prevention and the community.”My job is to get everyone to put their best foot forward in the 14th District,” he said. “I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think I could have an effect on crime.”
Also in attendance were two officers from the 14th District who brought their own observations.
Community Relations Officer Synell Hall informed residents about a new program of the PPD entitled “Operation ID,” which supplies stickers to community residents to place upon valuables in their homes. The goal is to help track and identify stolen merchandise, particularly electronics, which were said to be the number one target of burglars.
A community-wide event for the program is in the process of being planned.
Sgt. Scott Tees related a piece of practical advice: Don’t leave your car while warming it up in the morning.
Tees said it’s not uncommon for car thieves to be on the prowl, looking for unattended vehicles. With Lincoln Drive nearby, thieves are then able to make a quick escape out of the city, he said.
Lastly, with the ever-present possibility of snow, Hall reminded residents that securing a shoveled-out spot with a cone or plastic chair, while traditional, isn’t legal.
While time – and the district’s Part One crime statistics – will tell if Fleming’s tactical and strategic initiatives will help curb criminal behavior, community residents present at the meeting were positive about the new captain’s commitment to their neighborhood.
“He has a strong sense of mission,” observed West Mt. Airy resident Lynne Schleifer of Fleming, praising him for the “energy” he brought to the evening.
Hollie Malamud-Price, executive director of the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District, said she looked forward to working with Fleming, describing him as “approachable.”
Noting that people sometimes feel their community is not a police priority, Price said she understands the PPD has to make choices given its resources, often directing deployment to areas prone to violent crime.
“We’ll do the best we can with the resources available to us,” she said.