Searching for solutions

Frankford community takes action after recent shootings

State Rep. Jason Dawkins speaks to concerned residents Thursday at a meeting held in response to recent shootings in Frankford. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

It’s been a rough month for Frankford.

On Dec. 3, a college-bound teenager was killed and two others were shot outside a corner store at Harrison and Tackawanna streets.

A day later, three people died after a shootout inside a home on Saul Street. A 13-year-old boy, the son of one of the victims, called 911.

In response, a group of community leaders gathered Thursday night at Gambrel Recreation Center. Their goal: To draw up a strategy to curb the violence that has shaken Frankford.

“Frankford ain’t ever been like this. Never,” said Nashid Edwards, a community activist who organized the meeting.

“We know we can’t stop everything, but this is ridiculous,” said Tony Moody, a Frankford native who now lives in Holmesburg. “Every other week, somebody’s getting shot. This is ridiculous.”

More than 100 people have been shot in the greater Frankford area so far this year, according to crime data compiled by Philly.com

Residents at Thursday’s meeting had different ideas about how to stem the violence. Some said neighbors should rally together to get more resources from the city, while others talked about mentorship programs for young people.

State Rep. Jason Dawkins, who lives in Frankford, said many of the young people in the neighborhood have a “facade of anger and frustration.”

“We got to demand change,” Dawkins said. “These are our kids out here. We’ve seen these kids falling left and right.”

The group did leave the rec center with two concrete ideas.

One is transforming Frankford High School into a resource for the entire neighborhood — not just students. The school is in the process of applying to become a “community school,” according to Darrion Shuford, Dawkins’ chief of staff.

Community schools are designated facilities that bring in services to respond to the needs of the neighborhood. George Washington High School became a community school in 2017.

Frankford Principal Michael Calderone could not be reached to confirm the school’s application.

Only a select number of schools will be picked for the designation. The School District of Philadelphia and the Mayor’s Office for Education will decide on finalists in March or February, according to Sarah Peterson, a spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office.

If Frankford is chosen, the school would be able to host programs for people ages 18 to 25 who are not in college and are not working, Shuford said. They could learn a trade, figure out how to start a business and even get suits and ties for job interviews.

“I’m praying that it comes to fruition,” Shuford said.

The second part of the plan is to hold weekly meetings with the goal of making Frankford safer.

Dawkins said the first thing the group will do is identify all of the problem areas in the neighborhood — corners with a high amount of crime and drug activity. Then, they will work to figure out who is selling drugs and causing problems in those areas.

“We’ve got to almost assess everybody that’s on every corner,” Dawkins said.

The group will approach the troublemakers and give them opportunities to get off the corner, Dawkins said. Maybe they will get a chance at a job or be able enroll in a training program. Some will have to go to jail, Dawkins said.

“If they’re not willing to take what we’re trying to offer them, you leave me with no other choice,” he said. “You’ve got to go, one way or another.”

The weekly meetings are expected to begin next month after the holidays. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com