75 new police recruits will deploy to Kensington next week as part of mayor’s push to clean up neighborhood

New academy graduates will be immediately dispatched to walk the beat in Philly’s “Kensington pocket.” The police commissioner says arrests will be made.

Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel

Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel said Monday that 75 members of the class of police cadets graduating from the academy next week will be dispatched to Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood. Above, Bethel speaks during a news conference Monday, March 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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The Philadelphia Police Department plans to step up its enforcement efforts in Kensington next week.

Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel confirmed Monday that 75 members of the class of police cadets graduating from the academy next week will be immediately dispatched to what the commissioner called “the Kensington pocket” to step up enforcement efforts.

“We are going to go down there and start to address what has been manifesting from the issues down there,” Bethel said. “The level of open-air drugs, the violence that occurs there, and all the things that have kept that community pretty much imprisoned for a long time, we are going to give hope back to a community that has lost hope.”

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It’s been a month since the city cleared out homeless encampments along Kensington Avenue, an area known for pervasive drug use.

“We still have a lot of work to do, my team does not believe overnight we are going to take care of an issue that has been there for decades,” Bethel said.

He said they are not going to arrest their way out of the drug problem in the neighborhood, but arrests would be made.

“I will make no excuses for the fact that we will go down there in a much more forward posture that we will be making arrests. But we also understand we’re not trying to overrun the system. ”

Pedro Rosario, the deputy police commissioner assigned to Kensington, said things need to change in the troubled neighborhood.

“What’s happening now can’t continue. We have to reset those norms,” Rosario said. “Bring a sense of normalcy back to the Kensington community.”

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Bethel stressed the rookie officers would not be left to patrol the streets of Kensington on their own, telling reporters that assigned officers would be familiarized with the area and would receive special training to deal with situations that may occur while stationed in the neighborhood.

The Philadelphia Inquirer was the first to report on the deployment, part of a phased approach to clean up the troubled neighborhood.

“The next phase of our work is really getting down there to address the drug activities [that] occur in there and the violence,” Bethel said.

He said there would be diversion opportunities and other non-custodial ways to clean up the neighborhood.

“This is the start of a long process. We plan to be down there and sustain that area and hold as long as we have to in order to give hope to that community.”

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