Local DA office opens on Ogontz

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Monday officially opened a new neighborhood outreach center in the West Oak Lane section of the city.

The Northwest Community Action Center, located along Ogontz Avenue, is part of a citywide effort to give residents a more convenient way of working with Philadelphia police and the city prosecutor’s office, in order to fight crime.

It’s the second center of its kind. The first opened in Northern Liberties towards the end of September.

District Attorney Seth Williams said taking a community-based approach to reducing and preventing crime throughout the city fits well with Philadelphia’s character.

“Philadelphians love their neighborhoods,” said Williams. “They may hate everyone else’s, but they love their own. So we’re going to use that spirit to serve the city.”

The small space – nestled among the shops at Ogontz Plaza – will have a number of functions. Residents from each of the Northwest’s 12 zip codes can come to the center to share information about criminal activity in their neighborhood. They can also receive crime prevention tips like how to avoid being burglarized or assaulted.

The center will also be available for civic association and town watch meetings, said Theresa Marley, director of the Community Action Centers.  It will be staffed largely by volunteers, including retired assistant district attorneys and local town watch leaders, she added.

Captain Joseph Dales of the 14th Police District, which includes the center, said Crime Prevention Officer Synell Hall will work closely with the DA’s efforts in the area. He said he plans on directing district residents to the center to take advantage of its crime prevention classes.

Dales said he is pleased that the center is located along a main artery that’s easily accessible by public transportation and, for some, on foot.

“A center like this is often downtown,” said Dales. “By it being so close and in the neighborhood, people can literally walk to this location and get the help and education that they are seeking.”

The space was donated to the DA’s Office by the West Oak Lane-based community development corporation Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation.

OARC Executive Director Jack Kitchen said the center’s location will help make it a valuable resource for residents.

“It’s absolutely better that it’s in a stable area,” he said. “where people can come and talk and feel secure and not feel like the bad guys are watching them every minute.”

Marley said the Northwest Community Action Center will be open at least five days a week. Hours, she said, will be based on community needs.

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