Philadelphia Police 14th District Captain Joel Dales remains adamant that he needs the two bike cops, once assigned to Mt. Airy, to cover hotspots in Germantown.
Dales appeared at Tuesday night’s monthly board meeting for East Mt. Airy Neighbors (EMAN). There board members pressed Dales about his rationale to reassign the officers from the upper reaches of Germantown Avenue to the lower.
For Dales, the issue was straightforward – the officers should go where the need is greatest. He showed a computer display of recent 14th District robberies and assaults to EMAN President Kent Reichert, pointing out a cluster of offenses near the corner of Germantown and Chelten avenues. “If you see this pattern,” he said, “where would you put your officers?”
Reichert asked what the policy was on deploying bike cops. Dales replied, “There is no policy. I put them in an area where crime is on the rise. We’ve got issues on the lower end of Germantown Avenue and that’s why I put them there.”
Dales says he hopes to replace the bike cops with beat officers when the next class graduated from the Police Academy but noted that there was no guarantee that the 14th would receive new officers from that class.
Dan Muroff, board member and former EMAN president, said that he appreciated the circumstances that Dales had to deal with but noted that he had helped sponsor the original purchase of bicycles for the Police Department specifically for Mt. Airy. He said, “They’re [bicycle officers] gone because it enhanced the police presence and did it well. It brought crime down. The answer to fixing the problem [in Germantown] is not to cannibalize other parts of the community.” The police officers patrolled Mt. Airy on bicycles since 1997.
We paid for your bikes
The money to outfit bicycle officers for Mt. Airy was originally raised by the now-disbanded Safe Streets Committee, an anti-crime initiative formed in 1996 in response to a rash of robberies and break-ins in East Mt. Airy.
Board member Vernon Price echoed Muroff’s remarks, saying that because Mt. Airy was now a relatively low-crime area with a presumably lower need for bicycle patrols, “We’re victims of our own success.”
Board member David Bell asked Dales about the assignment of bicycle officers to Chestnut Hill. Dales defended that deployment by pointing to recent bank robberies in Chestnut Hill and for the need for a police presence along Wadsworth Avenue, also covered by bicycle officers.
“If you know anything about Wadsworth, you know there’s a lot going on there, ” said Dales. “It’s a nasty strip, that’s why the bikes are there.”
At one point during the discussion, when Dales was asked if there was anything the community could do to get more officers assigned to the 14th District, he replied, “You are putting a lot of energy into getting those officers back. I encourage you to put that energy into putting a town watch on bikes. Who knows the community better than residents?”
Shortly before departing Dales said, “If I get a chance, I will reassign them [bike officers] up here. But right now my priority is the other end [of Germantown Avenue.]”
Two new board members
After Captain Dales departed the board turned to other business, including the selection of two interim board members. The new members are Hollie Malamud-Price, executive director of the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District, and Matt Mueller, who is employed by the District Attorney’s office. Formal board elections will take place at the annual EMAN meeting in June.
Board member Janet Amato brought up the upcoming Mt. Airy Day celebration, scheduled for May 5 on the grounds of Cliveden of the National Trust, and emphasized the need for volunteers to help out on that day, principally with setting up and cleaning up. Those wanting to volunteer should e-mail to email@example.com.
Former Black Olive building
After a discussion of possible fundraising efforts, Malamud-Price brought up the condition of the property at 22-24 East Mt. Airy Avenue. The building, the former Black Olive Restaurant, was badly damaged by fire last year and has not been repaired. The owners are Ina Walker and Hugh Clark, who both have pleaded guilty to stealing more than half a million dollars allocated by the School District of Philadelphia for the operation of New Media Technology Charter School. Walker entered a guilty plea in January while Clark did so on Tuesday.
Malamud-Price said that the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District (BID) had explored the idea of purchasing the building. But other board members pointed out that Walker and Clark’s legal situation probably prohibited buying the building any time soon, since it had been purchased with embezzled funds and would likely be subject to forfeiture and a subsequent sheriff’s sale.
Malamud-Price said that it was a “big concern of the BID” since it blighted the unit block of East Mt. Airy Avenue, which is not a large commercial block. “It’s on our radar screen,” she emphasized.
Cindy Bass makes surprise visit
Near the meeting’s close 8th District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass stopped by after leaving another meeting to chat with the board and answer any questions they might have. Bass is a past president of EMAN.
She devoted much of her time at the meeting to talking about the City Council hearings on the city’s next budget, in particular the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) which she said had dominated the early stages of discussion.
The Actual Value Initiative is intended to reform the city’s real estate tax assessment system, which has long been regarded in many quarters as both arbitrary and inequitable. Bass shared that view, saying, “Everybody knows that taxes have been really unfair in Philadelphia for a long time. We all know that inequities exist and that it is time to do something.”
But, she said, City Council still had many questions that needed answers from the Nutter administration before it would act on AVI.