The Philadelphia Housing Authority added 48 new officers to its police force Tuesday at a swearing-in ceremony at the Norman Blumberg Apartments in North Philadelphia.
This is the first time the agency has expanded its police force in more than 12 years.
Congressman Chaka Fattah, City Council President Darrell Clarke and several City and State officials attended the ceremony where PHA announced new safety measures, including the addition of more than 600 high tech security cameras throughout its public housing properties.
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PHA President Kelvin Jeremiah said the cameras will not only increase safety on PHA properties but in surrounding neighborhoods as well.
"I think it will increase the protection of our residents. With new cameras we will be able to monitor, from a central location, some 830 cameras that will be in place across our developments. All of those should be in place by April of next year. The kind of cameras that we're installing are not going to only be focused on PHA's properties; they'll be focused on the broader community, as well as properties surrounding PHA. So crime that is happening at or around our developments will be monitored," he said.
The announcement comes only days after State Representative Curtis Thomas issued a call for action against violence that he said was occurring primarily in and around PHA housing in his district.
Acting Chief of the Philadelphia Housing Authority Police Department (PHAPD) James Mitchell said some of the new officers will be deployed to Thomas' district.
"Safety is of the utmost importance to the Philadelphia Housing Authority and the Philadelphia Housing Authority Police Department. We're going to make sure that our officers are out there to cover those specific areas that Representative Thomas has identified," he said. "We work very closely with his office, we are here to serve, and we're going to make sure that we make an impact on crime in these areas."
Representative Thomas thanked the PHA for its swift response.
"I thank the Philadelphia Housing Authority for stepping up to the plate. We've had 52 shootings in my district between January and June. Many of these 52 shootings were either on or in close proximity to one of several of the public housing developments in my district. So I'm excited that they have stepped up on this issue," Thomas said.
PHAPD has shrunken considerably over recent years from a force of nearly 300 officers to less than 30 officers, primarily due to funding challenges and shifting priorities.
PHA has since adopted a community-policing model that engages residents, local business owners, faith-based organizations, community groups, nonprofit groups, and other city agencies in its policing efforts. As part of this new strategy, PHA has elected a number of its residents to be a part of its Board of Commissioners.
Nine year resident of Hill Creek Apartments and member of the PHA Board of Commissioners, Shellie Jackson, said she is proud to serve as a liaison between the residents of her community and the PHA.
"It's very important to me, being a part of the board. And I believe that all residents need to have that same desire within them to be liaisons for one another. That's the only way. What we just did here today was phenomenal and I'm happy to be a part of it. I really hope begin to feel the way that I do," Jackson said.
As a PHA housing resident, Jackson said she believes PHA's new initiatives will make her community safer.
"What we did here today, inducting these officers, it's phenomenal. I know that its going to help, I know that it's going to be safer, I know that it's going to make a big change."