SEPTA police chief Tom Nestel spoke at the Frankford Civic Association meeting on February 5th. The issue that prompted the invitation was the most recent PSA meeting where residents noted that criminal activity is rampant at the Margaret-Orthodox El station, often apparently under the eyes of SEPTA personnel. The individuals who sell drugs openly stand at the top of the El steps and don’t seem to be intimidated by SEPTA police. When Philadelphia police are in the area, they will often move on to SEPTA property seemingly using it as a safe haven.
Nestel said that January 11th saw redeployment in district 4 which is headed by Sgt Cavallaro and includes the Margaret-Orthodox El station. It now has double the number of personnel than any other district. That redeployment was driven by data indicating that crimes rates in district 4 are the highest in the system. He acknowledged that this area has not been receiving the attention it should and said “Give me a couple of months and see if there is a difference”.
He went on to talk about the Broken windows theory and its application to crime on the SEPTA system. Last year there were 5,172 arrests for fare evasion while at the same time felony crime went down by 16% after 10 years of rising crime. Nestel says “If they think they can get away with jumping the turnstiles they’ll think they can get away with robbing somebody”. “If you’re selling loosies, you’re not doing it to make a living or to feed your kids. You’re not going to make enough money selling loosies to take care of anybody. You’re selling loosies to be in an area so that you can watch and look and see for a better opportunity to arise.”
The result has been push back from the court system which has had to add days on the calendar exclusively dedicated to SEPTA arrests.
But the big question from the Veronica Daniel, who lead the talk for the CDC was are the SEPTA police and the PPD (Philadelphia Police Department) working together to address the crime issue not only at Margaret-Orthodox but all along the line in Frankford?
The answer is – not so much. In regard to resources, the PPD has 6500 officers while SEPTA has 275. Nestel says he has excellent relationships with both Captain McCloskey and Commissioner Ramsey but it is apparent at this point that the Captain feels he has adequate resources to do the job.
However, SEPTA does monitor the J band on police radio and when a need arises, offers assistance to the PPD. Nestel notes “We didn’t know about the robbery pattern surrounding Frankford and Bridge until one of our customers told us” but when they became aware of the situation they deployed one of their mobile video cameras which did in fact record one of the robberies taking place.
One interesting piece of information is that SEPTA has 13,000 video cameras and their radio dispatch can look at any one of them if they get a call. So if you see something suspicious like that guy making the hand off on the platform, call 215-580-8111 and tell them what’s going on. If you have a major non time critical gripe call Tom Nestel or better yet email him. 215-580-3640 email firstname.lastname@example.org
The next Frankford Civic Association meeting will be held on March 5th at 7PM at St. Mark’s Church.