As District Attorney Seth Williams stood in a church auditorium in Nicetown during a community Town Hall meeting Tuesday night, homicide numbers for the year he rattled off were outdated within minutes – in two other neighborhoods across the city, two men were fatally shot in separate incidents during Williams’ talk.
“One homicide is too many,” Williams told the crowd of roughly 40 community members who attended the meeting at Triumph Baptist Church on Hunting Park Avenue near Germantown.
Williams told residents at the meeting about the community-based prosecution model he established in Philadelphia and explained a handful of programs the D.A.’s Office is working on aimed at curbing crime – especially gun violence.
“A major focus of ours is really doing all we can to address the gun violence,” Williams told community members, many of whom reside in gun-violence-plagued neighborhoods near where the meeting was held. “I believe if you carry a gun illegally in Philadelphia, you’ve gotta go.”
Williams said the city’s GunStat initiative and the D.A.’s Office’s Gun Violence Task Force are both working to curb gun violence.
Several residents at the meeting, including Earline Seals, 63, expressed concerns – and frustration – about drug corners in their neighborhoods.
“The frustration of the community is that the police know, and still [the drug dealers] are on the corner,” one man said. “We were trying to have a block party, and they said no, because we have a drug problem.”
Williams suggested that to tackle the problem of drug corners and the loitering that often comes with them, community members should lobby for environmental crime-preventers, like lights and cameras in high-crime areas that don’t already have them.
Williams encouraged residents to visit the D.A.’s Office’s Northwest Community Action Center at 7175 Ogontz Avenue.
Like Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey did at a similar community meeting in Southwest Germantown last week, Williams encouraged the community to stay engaged and do their part.
“If you want to help me fight crime, I don’t need you to chase drug dealers,” Williams said, adding that people can help by making sure their kids go to school and, if they have friends and relatives who are hooked on drugs, getting them into rehab. “We have to get people help.”
After the meeting, Tioga-Nicetown resident Seals, who’d joined a neighbor at the meeting in voicing concerns about drug-dealing and loitering on corners, said she was pleased with how it went.
“I feel encouraged, but I still have a couple of issues,” Seals, 63, who grew up in the area said.
Germantown resident Nikki Bagby, 40, had a strong message for her neighbors. “We as people have to stop talking so much about our problems and be proactive,” she said as the meeting neared its close.
She reiterated her point after the meeting.
“[The D.A.’s Office is] trying, but it has to be beyond that. Their hands are tied. We have to be proactive,” the mother of six said. “People don’t care until something comes to their door…. That’s what bothers me the most. It’s everybody’s job.”