Philly Police spread message of peace in NW neighborhoods

Across the city and in the Northwest, the Philadelphia Police Department held its first annual Philly Police Day for Peace this weekend. 

Held in various police districts throughout Philadelphia on Saturday, the day was a chance for neighborhood residents and police officers to interact over food, entertainment, and community service, all in the interest of affirming the bond between police and local communities.

While the Day for Peace was a department-wide initiative, PPD community relations officers at the local level were encouraged by their regional commanders to tailor their offerings to resonate most with the neighbors they serve, according to Officer David E. Jones, a member of the department’s Community Relations unit.

“While there has been support provided at various levels throughout the department and all the events are set to coincide so far as date and time,” said Jones in an email, “it is still considered local to the divisions.”

Reflecting on crime’s impact on a community 

On Saturday,NewsWorks stopped by two Day for Peace events in Northwest Philadelphia. 

At the 39th Police District Headquarters on Hunting Park Avenue, the crystal clear-sound system of Crime Prevention Officer Joe Lukaitis was in full swing by 11 a.m., playing party favorites for the event’s early arrivals. 

Lukaitis, who used to moonlight as a disc jockey, took a moment from labors to ask those in attendance to consider the impact of violence, given its seeming omnipresence in media.

“That’s what the Day for Peace is all about,” he said. “Although we’re going to dance, although we’re going to have fun, let’s keep it in our hearts that everybody has lost somebody.”

Judy Lee of Nicetown came to the 39th District to accompany her aunt Bernice and to support the police and their efforts in the community. 

“It’s nice that people can come here besides for police matters and be in a positive atmosphere,” said Lee.

Promoting peace in various forms 

The PPD’s Day for Peace is being viewed as a welcome development by other organizers for peace in the region.

Lisa Parker, the initiator of Peace Day Philly – an annual event connected to the International Day of Peace – said that while the PPD’s festivities are not directly connected to her annual event, she gave the police department her stamp of approval.

“As we have learned over the past two-plus years through [Peace Day Philly], the Philadelphia Police Department welcomes and supports opportunities to interact with community members in positive, non-law enforcement ways, and to provide community activities that bring people together in positive ways,” said Parker in an email.

“The Police Department’s May 4th activities are one example of the many ongoing efforts taking place across our city to build community and positive relations, which in turn we know increases peaceful human interactions and levels of peacefulness,” she observed.

Parker added that the PPD, which has served as a major supporter of September’s Peace Day Philly in the past, has once again committed to supporting PDP 2013, which will occur on Sept. 20.

Fostering partnerships in Roxborough 

In the Fifth Police District, community relations personnel left the confines of district headquarters in favor of the slightly-more pleasant setting of nearby Gorgas Park.

Explaining his choice of Gorgas Park, Officer Charles Kline, community relations officer for the Fifth District, he wanted to assist residents as they prepared for the spring clean-up. In addition to Saturday being the Day for Peace, it was also a jump-start for Love Your Park, which formally begins on May 11.

“Every district is doing something different around the city,” said Kline. “Gorgas Park is such a lovely place; we wanted to help get it ready for the spring and summer.”

Roxborough resident Karen Sears spoke for both the park and for police on Saturday. With about one hundred volunteers pruning and preening, Sears said that partnership was the key, whether in a park, or with the local police.

“You’ve got to partner with everybody,” she said. “It just works better.”

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