by Sue Ann Rybak
New 14th Police District Capt. John Fleming is committed to decreasing crime in the northwest.
Fleming told residents at a Jan 16 captain’s meeting that police arrested two men for allegedly burglarizing a house on Jan. 16 on the 8100 block of Rodney Street in East Mt. Airy, not far from Chestnut Hill’s northeast corner. While Fleming said he could not release more details at this time, police were looking to see if the men were responsible for other burglaries in the area.
“These guys weren’t just two high school kids who decided to skip school,” he said. “They woke up this morning and made a conscious decision to commit a burglary.”
Fleming, who replaced Capt. Joel Dales in November, introduced himself to residents and discussed crime in the 14th District and strategies to deter crime in northwest Philadelphia at the meeting held at 14th District headquarters, 43 W. Haines St. .
“I am extremely happy to be back in the Northwest again for my third stint,” said the 16-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department.
Also in attendance was Community Relations Officer Synell Hall and Chief Deputy Commissioner. Dennis Lee,
Fleming said the district was divided into four police sector areas:
PSA #1, whose boundaries are Cheltenham to Chew avenues between Gorgas Lane and Vernon Road to Wister Street/Chew Avenue.
PSA #2, whose boundaries are Chew to Germantown avenues, from Gorgas Lane to Wister and Logan streets.
PSA #3, whose boundaries are the area from Germantown Avenue to the Wissahickon Valley, between St. Georges Lane and Allens Lane in the north to Queen Lane in the south.
PSA #4, whose boundaries are Stenton and Cheltenham avenues to the Wissahickon Valley, from Northwestern Avenue on the north to St. Georges Lane, Allens Lane, Gorgas Lane and Vernon Road in the south.
Typically PSA #1 and PSA #2 are where the majority of violent crimes occur.
“I want to use my resources to decrease violent crime, particularly between Wister and Haines and Chew to Stenton,” Fleming said.
He added that last year there were seven homicides in that area alone. To combat crime in that area Fleming has assigned several foot beat officers in PSA #1 and PSA #2.
One of the challenges the police face in is the size of the district.
“The 14th District is the largest residential and business district,” Hall said.
PSA #3 and PSA #4 tend to be less violent areas, Fleming said. However, he added that there are a lot of burglaries and thefts in those sectors. Fleming noted that bike patrols are very effective in combating crime.
“The community loves the bike patrol,” Fleming said. “I get great feedback from civic associations.”
Catalina Bautista, who owns a business in Mt. Airy asked if the 14th District was getting horses.
Fleming replied he has been working with Lt. Daniel McCann, who is the commanding officer of the Mounted Patrol Unit, to bring horses back to the 14th Police District. In a press release McCann called the city’s Mounted Patrol Unit a “necessary tool” for the Philadelphia Police.
Fleming said because the 14th District is so large the horses are very effective in deterring crime.
“People love the horses and frankly – the horses work,” Fleming said. “If you were going to break into a car and you see two officers on horseback, usually you’re not going to do it.”
Unfortunately, he added “the horses come and go at the discretion of the Philadelphia Police Department.”
The City recently received four horses from Newark’s disbanded Mounted Patrol Unit, and within the next two years the department hopes to expand the Mounted Patrol Unit to approximately 30 horses and 25 sworn officers.
“As a captain, I have to request when and why I want them,” Fleming said. “I could give them a dissertation to explain why.”
He said he likes them to be on Germantown Avenue at the top of the Hill because “geographically it’s the furthest spot from here.”
“You are less likely to see a police officer up there, and the residents are so receptive to the horses,” Fleming said. “No one ever says those stinking horses are here.”
The unit excels in controlling large crowds, accessing narrow passages, enhancing the visibility of officers and improving communication between law enforcement and the community.