Jones withdraws support for East Falls victims unit

A controversial plan to bring the Philadelphia Police Special Victims Unit to a new East Falls facility is officially off the table.

After a meeting yesterday with community and business representatives, Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. announced he has withdrawn his support of the plan to move the police unit to a new $7 million center off Scotts Lane, across from the McDevitt Recreation Center.

Controversy erupted at a hastily-called public meeting last week with Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison, residents denounced both the plan and a lack of information about the deal. Jones’ office received concerned emails and calls about the plan, which he said would have “severe impacts” on the community.

The councilman had introduced a measure approving a lease deal on a new SVU facility as a courtesy to the Nutter administration, but soured on the deal in the face of community outrage. He held the bill from a final vote on Thursday.

“Although, the concept of a co-location of police and victims services is laudable, I have decided that I cannot support moving forward with this project in this location,” Jones said in a statement. Jones said he had compassion for crime victims and saw the need for such a facility, but the concerns of residents came first.

Gina Snyder, executive director of the East Falls Development Corp., was among those at the meeting with Jones, East Falls Community Council president Tom Sauerman, local youth sports officials and Dr. Stephen Spinelli, president of Philadelphia University.

Snyder called the outcome “very good news,” and said the discussion had focused on the issues of traffic, land use and safety — and the perception of safety — the facility would have engendered in the neighborhood.

While more than 70 police detectives would have been working on the site, some residents had expressed concern about criminal suspects or offenders being brought into the neighborhood. Others said the neighborhood already had more than its share of city- and non-profit facilities, including the Gaudenzia House drug and alcohol rehab, the Youth Study Center and an alternative high school.

Sauerman urged residents to contact Jones’ office to thank him for changing his stance on the deal.

Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com

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