Guns a hot topic at ‘Take Back Your Neighborhood’

Mark Gilson, chief of the district attorney’s Northeast bureau, recalls a time when a person convicted of carrying an unlicensed gun received a sentence of probation.

Today, the sentence for the same crime is often five years in prison.

“That’s a significant difference,” Gilson said.

Gilson spoke at last week’s meeting of Take Back Your Neighborhood, a Castor Gardens-based civic association.

Bryan Lentz also addressed the group. A former state representative from Delaware County, he heads the office’s Gun Violence Task Force.

Like Gilson, Lentz noted a crackdown on people with illegal guns, calling it, “Carry less, shoot less.” He said they are getting stiff sentences, “even from some of the weakest judges.”

Lentz told the story of “The Platter Boyz,” a gang alleged to have been involved in 30 shootings in the area of G and Westmoreland streets.

“Within six months,” he said, “eight members of that gang were in state prison.”

Gilson supervises a dozen assistant district attorneys who handle cases in the 2nd, 7th, 8th and 15th police districts. He said gun crimes are on the rise in the 15th district and parts of the 2nd district. The cases are usually heard on the 10th floor of the Criminal Justice Center. A man sitting in the front seat asked Gilson to differentiate between people carrying guns legally and illegally. The man was wearing a licensed gun on his hip. Gilson said his team is asking city bail commissioners to set high bail on gun suspects.

“We are routinely getting six-figure bail on these guys,” he said. “They’re not making bail.”

In other news from the Jan. 22 meeting:

• Tina Bodine, a physician liaison with Aria Health, invited people age 55 and older to a monthly breakfast at Aria’s Frankford Campus, at 4900 Frankford Ave. The sessions run from 8 to 10 a.m. on the last Tuesday of the month in the second-floor conference rooms. They include a guest speaker, along with a raffle. To reserve a seat, call toll-free 1–877–808-ARIA.

• Frank Eichhorn, a representative of the Northeast Philadelphia affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, invited the community to attend monthly meetings. The group meets on the second Sunday of the month at 2 p.m. at Friends Hospital.

Eichhorn said the disorder impacts people from all kinds of backgrounds.

“Mental illness is an equal-opportunity illness,” he said. For more information, go to Philadelphia.nami.org

• Dianne Murphy earlier this month replaced Mark Mroz as community relations officer in the 2nd Police District. Mroz now works as an aide to Inspector Mike Cochrane, commander of the Northeast Police Division.

Murphy encouraged residents and business owners to take part in the police department’s Operation Identification burglary-deterrent program. The department supplies labels that include an identification number. The labels are placed on valuable property. If police are able to recover stolen property, it can be returned to the owner based on the ID number.

Individuals can request a participation form at any police station.

• The civic association is planning a community garden this spring on the 6500 block of Horrocks St., along the perimeter of Max Myers Playground. The public will be invited to grow vegetables. A planning meeting is set for Saturday, Feb. 9, at 10 a.m. at the playground.

• A Max Myers-based Girl Scout troop is selling cookies every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the playground, at 1601 Hellerman St.

• Take Back will meet Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m., at Max Myers Playground. Guests will be City Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez; Brett Mandel, a Democratic candidate for city controller; and a representative from the 2nd Police District. ••

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215–354–3034 or twaring@bsmphilly.com