The COVID-19 pandemic has had rough consequences everywhere, and Kensington is no exception — but good news is coming.
The Kensington and Allegheny Business Association held a virtual meeting hosted by Rolando Sanchez of Impact Services on September 16th. 24th Police District Captain Pedro Rosario said that the “on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again” plan for a special new district in the Kensington Avenue corridor is on again, and expected to be ready in December or January. Capt. Rosario said that thanks to pressure from their partners in City Council and others, the new district will be established at the corner of Kensington and F Street in a former restaurant across from McPherson Square Park. It will be an additional district for East Division. The goal, he said, is to have at least 60-80 police officers, all foot-beats, patrolling the Kensington Avenue corridor from Allegheny Avenue to Somerset Street. The police are currently re-establishing relationships with the legitimate businesses in the corridor, and the boots-on-the-ground response is extremely necessary.
The new district will free-up 24th District Officers to patrol areas of Juniata, Harrowgate and Port Richmond that often get underserved when officers are frequently called to the Kensington Avenue area for priority incidents. This area of Kensington will have its own district officers on patrol.
Capt. Rosario said that a recent 4-5 month narcotics investigation netted 38 people in the area of 31xx Weymouth, 31xx Potter, 31xx Reach, and 600 E. Clearfield Streets. He called the activities a threat to the safety and quality of life of those who live there. “It was a home run,” he said, but he would need these kind of large number of arrests aided by state and federal partners every month to start moving forward.
Police Commissioner Outlaw understands the intense drug infestation, he said, as Kensington is a mecca for the tri-state area for drugs. The violence that it brings is insane.
The 24th District, on September 16th, led the city in homicides with 42, year-to-date. To put it in perspective, there were 27 homicides in all of 2019 in the district. This year the 24th District is on pace to have 55 homicides by the end of 2020.
“The amount of gun arrests that the officers are making are ridiculous,” said Rosario, and the number of weapons on the street are “mind-blowing”. He said there is a need to revisit the issue with legislation to help combat it. “The culture and the mindset is one of complete respect for everyone,” he said of those committing crimes.
Right now there are faith-based groups that are having a positive effect on the McPherson Square area, as some in addiction and homeless are accepting services. He said that McPherson Square Park is the foothold that they need to establish to make a difference. He added that Deputy Managing Director Tom Conway and his CLIP crew is amazing with the work that they do in the park.
MORE FROM THE KABA MEETING:
Tom Conway said that the Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP) is getting back on track after a third of his CLIP staff has been working at the city’s food distribution locations and at the food transportation center to help people in need over the past 5 months. He said it was a worthwhile project, and it put them behind on graffiti removal.
He offered some statistics for fiscal year 2020 to members of the K&A Business Association:
133,882 properties and street fixtures were cleaned of graffiti citywide, with 28,879 of them being in the 19134 and 19125 zip codes (22%).
The Community Partnership Program assisted 480 groups with 57 being in the Impact zone (12%).
The Community Service Program worked on 4,383 citywide projects with 2,183 in the Impact zone (50%).
9,978 vacant lots were cleaned with 692 in the impact zone (6.94%).
Citywide, 52 illegal dumping violations were written (1 in impact zone); and 120 illegal dumping tickets were issues with 92 of them in the impact zone (76.67%). The notice of violation gives the homeowner a chance for compliance, and the tickets are an immediate fine. Conway said that in all, $27,000 in fines were issued.
Pam Ramos announced that the Same Day Pay Program is giving monetary assistance to 71 sheltered and unsheltered people to clean up the areas in and around McPherson Square Park. Cohorts of 10 people are hired for 2 weeks for $400.00 each to do the job.
Jonathan Arrieta, Commercial Corridor Manager, added that there are many moving parts in the cleaning efforts being made in Kensington. The Taking Care of Business Initiative is employing more people on Kensington Avenue and is making it possible to keep their “Dump Team” to clean up smaller dumps in the neighborhood. He said that the sooner they can pick up an illegal dump, the better it is to control the situation or it gets out of hand. The “Dump Team” is removing 2,000 pounds of debris every day or two, including couches, home entertainment systems and other furniture on Kensington Avenue and nearby streets.
Rolando Sanchez said that when the next meeting date is determined, it will be announced.