Head of 39th Police District asks for Northwest Neighbors of Germantown’s help

Still within the first few months of his tenure as the 39th Police District’s commanding officer, Capt. Michael Craighead spoke to residents of Southwest Germantown on Monday night about crime and police activity in their neighborhood.

Craighead took over the district’s helm in November during a vast reshuffling of departmental leadership citywide. He is now responsible for a patrol area that includes East Falls, Southwest Germantown and sections of North Philadelphia.

Currently a Northwest Philadelphia resident, Craighead told members of the Northwest Neighbors of Germantown that he was born and raised within the district’s boundaries.

“It does not look the way it did when I was younger,” said the 22-year department veteran who spent the past 10 years as a lieutenant in the PPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau.

Subsequent to his promotion, Craighead said he was asked by police-department brass about his vision for the 39th District.

“With my being born there, I know what it was like — what it was — and I can see what it is,” he recalled telling his superiors. “I want my time at the 39th to be one of partnership.”

His message

Craighead observed that crime is cyclical, with trends often related to natural phenomenon like weather, seasons and the time of day. Criminal acts are driven by opportunity and motivation, he added.

“It’s the opportunity that we can address as a police department,” he said. “Societally, we can deal with the motivation aspect of it.”

Germane to local trends, Craighead said that burglaries are currently at the forefront of his attention, both district-wide and within Police Service Area One, a section of the 39th District that includes Southwest Germantown, East Falls and Allegheny West.

Recent crime trends

Craighead said that, in recent weeks, residential burglaries have greatly outnumbered commercial burglaries.

After speculating about possible causes — gentrification, drug abuse, unemployment — Craighead said that while his officers are monitoring prison releases and engaging in plain-clothes patrol, residents should engage in “target-hardening.”

By that, he meant they should take steps to make their homes and businesses as crime-resistant as possible; to help with that, the 39th District conducts security surveys of properties.

In addition, theft from vehicles continues to frustrate police, as this largely preventable crime drives up the district’s Part One crime statistics.

“You name it, people leave it in their car,” Craighead said. Listing the various items taken from cars, he said, “The point is, someone else wanted it.”

Reaching out to the community

To encourage budding partnerships, Craighead pointed to the many electronic avenues that residents now have to interact with police, including the department’s phillypolice.com website, the iWatch smartphone app and the 39th District’s new Twitter handle, @39thdistrictCT.

After reminding residents that 311 remains the principal means of notifying the city about non-emergency complaints, Craighead also spoke about the unveiling of 211, the city’s proposed social-service hotline which he expects will come online later this year.

Residents’ concerns

Still, residents expressed frustration about drug activity in Southwest Germantown, lamenting that prior tips to police went unanswered while the crime continued.

Craighead encouraged attendees to continue their efforts to remain in contact with him and his district’s personnel, noting that residents are the ultimate in “force-multipliers.” He said prompt responses will be forthcoming.

“It may not address why it occurred, and it may not prevent why it occurred,” said Craighead. “In partnering, what I can do is to help proactively address things so that maybe we can prevent them from happening in the future, ultimately improving the quality of life.”

Also on the agenda for the meeting, held at state Rep. Rosita Youngblood’s West Chelten Avenue office, were discussions about an upcoming block-cleaning day, updates on the Potter’s Field excavation and AVI.

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