More than 100 concerned residents packed a small conference room at the 1st Police District on Tuesday, Jan. 21, in response to a trend of rising crime across the city and in their South Philly neighborhoods.
Residents were upset at what they called “a lack of police presence” on the streets and how taxpayer money is allocated in regard to police protection. They made their voices heard to police officials during a one-hour meeting at the district’s headquarters at 24th and Wolf streets.
“We pay the most in (property) taxes and we have no type of control,” one resident said. “It’s all going towards another neighborhood.”
According to the Philadelphia Police website, 31 homicides were committed citywide in the first 21 days of the year, which is an 82-percent increase during the first three weeks of 2019.
Robberies and burglaries have also been a hot-button issue, especially in South Philadelphia.
“I get home late at night and drive around looking for a parking spot near my home,” one resident said. “If I can’t find one, I’ll park illegally, knowing I’ll get a ticket. I’d rather pay the ticket at this point because it’s terrifying.”
The meeting was the largest-ever crowd assembled for a Police Town Hall at the 1st District, according to Capt. Louis Campione. The increased neighborhood presence was partly because it followed the news of 18-year-old South Lee Street resident Erin Schweikert’s decomposed body being found in the basement of a home on the 2100 block of Porter Street on Jan. 16.
Schweikert was missing for more than three months before her body was discovered by
Philadelphia sheriffs and the police department’s Human Trafficking Task Force while serving a warrant on Jan 17. An investigation is continuing and one arrest was made in connection with Schweikert’s death as Maddison Leidy, 25, was charged with criminal conspiracy, abuse of corpse and other related offenses, according to police. Leidy was one of five residents at the Porter Street home who were questioned after the discovery.
She is being held on $500,000 bail and has a preliminary court hearing on Feb. 5. No other arrests had been made at the time of the meeting.
Schweikert’s death has sent shockwaves through the community, especially those who live in close proximity to the scene.
“This is unbelievable,” one neighbor said. “This is not a robbery. This is not drug addiction. This is beyond that … Everyone is driving down the street and stopping in front of that house. As horrible as that night was, we thought at least they were going to be gone. Within 48 hours, (residents of the home where Schweikert was found) were back in.”
A GoFundMe has been set up to raise money to compensate for funeral costs. As of Tuesday, nearly $19,000 of a $25,000 goal was reached.
Police declined to speak on details of the case, but said that the best way of preventing similar occurrences was to call police on any suspicions.
“That investigation is ongoing,” Campione said. “As far as your concerns, call 9-1-1. If you see something out of order, be good eyes and ears and get that information to us. That’s the best thing you can do.”
Residents are taking it a step further.
Girard Estate Area Residents (GEAR) are hosting what they call an “Emergency Meeting” on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at St. Monica Gym at 16th and Shunk streets from 6:30-9 p.m.
The anti-crime rally welcomes all South Philly residents to attend, and invites were sent to the mayor, district attorney, attorney general and police commissioner as well as local state and city representatives.
“Next week, you got to get all your neighbors and come out because that’s where we ask for the money for protection,” GEAR representative Jody Della Barba said.