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18 Nov 2012

PHA increases police force for the first time in over a decade

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November 18, 2012 Category: Local Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: PHA Police Chief, Benjamin Walton, and Detective Angela Rice-Warthen, President of the Fraternal Order of Housing Police following the announcement that the agency would dramatically expand its police force. “The union is excited about this initiative,” Rice-Warthen said. “We, too, are concerned about the safety of the residents. We are eager to get back to community policing in the Philadelphia Housing Authority community.”


The Philadelphia Housing Authority Police Department (PHAPD) will hire new police officers for the first time in 12 years to address safety and security issues raised by PHA residents in recent months.


PHAPD will hire up to 50 new police officers, which would more than double the size of the department that currently has 28 sworn personnel. The new officers will focus their efforts primarily, but not exclusively, on six developments: Norman Blumberg Apartments, Hill Creek, Raymond Rosen Manor, Wilson Park, West Park Apartments, and Abbottsford Homes. They will rotate their patrols throughout PHA developments.


“This initiative represents PHA’s renewed commitment to responding to the needs and concerns of its residents,” said Kelvin Jeremiah, the agency’s Interim Executive Director. “PHA is revising its safety and security strategy and is creating a Quality of Life Task Force comprised of PHA residents, staff, and external partners. This group will be charged with finding new and innovative ways to improve the quality of life for residents and fight crime at PHA properties.”


An analysis performed by PHA’s Finance and Human Resources Departments shows that the increased cost to PHA of hiring new officers is estimated to be approximately $5 million, not taking into account the cost of equipment and supplies. However, the increased cost will not exceed $6 million. In order to fund the new hires for PHAPD, the agency plans to cut a portion of its spending on private security contracts by up to $6 million.


The funding for new police officers supplements other planned initiatives that are part of a broader safety and security plan, which includes an $8.5 million investment for closed circuit television systems and layered building access controls.


During the 1990s, PHAPD was the fourth largest police department in Pennsylvania. However, by 2007, the department began to decline from a force of approximately 300 officers to its current force of only 28 sworn personnel due to funding challenges and shifting priorities. The reduction was due to funding challenges and shifting priorities.


As part of a new strategy, PHA is adopting a community-policing model. It will link the agency’s policing activities to the broader framework provided by the City’s Police Department and work in conjunction with members of the business community, faith-based organizations, community groups, nonprofit groups, victim service providers, health service providers, the media, individuals, and other city agencies. PHA has already begun to implement the organizational and cultural changes necessary to not only maintain, but also to enhance, collaboration among its stakeholders.


“The union is excited about this initiative,” said Detective Angela Rice-Warthen, President of the Fraternal Order of Housing Police. “We, too, are concerned about the safety of the residents. We are eager to get back to community policing in the Philadelphia Housing Authority community.”


“The primary objective of the community policing model is to provide for coordinated services, which in turn result in safer, more livable communities,” Jeremiah said. “Community policing addresses both serious crime and quality of life crimes through the delivery of police services that include aspects of traditional law enforcement, as well as prevention, problem solving, community engagement, and partnerships.”


He added that community policing balances reactive responses to calls for service with forward-looking problem solving centered on the causes of crime and disorder, rather than just reacting to those issues. Community policing requires police and citizens to join as partners in the course of both identifying and effectively addressing these issues.


New police officers hired by PHAPD will receive a starting base annual salary of $44,000 to $50,000, based upon experience. They must be state certified at the time of hire. Although their primary jurisdiction involves PHA properties, PHAPD officers currently exercise full police powers under the Pennsylvania Municipal Police Jurisdiction Act and are authorized to make arrests beyond their primary jurisdiction.


Persons interested in joining PHAPD should visit the PHA web site and watch for printed notices over the next couple of weeks. PHA may hire even more officers in the future.

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