Efforts underway to curb violence in Holmesburg

Since June, three men have been killed and three others injured in a rash of shootings in a small section of Holmesburg.

SOURCE: METRO IMAGES

Janet Jackson lived at 13th and Dauphin streets in North Philadelphia for nearly 30 years, but she’s never seen anything like the rash of gun violence that’s struck her part of Holmesburg in recent months.

Since June, three people have been killed and three others injured in shootings in the area bounded by Hartel Avenue and Cottman Avenue between Torresdale Avenue and Edmund Street.

Most recently, on Oct. 27, Shahib Williams, 20, was fatally shot near Torresdale and Shelmire Street.

Less than two weeks before, Isheem Campbell, 22, was killed and another man was injured after gunfire erupted on Torresdale near Bleigh Avenue.

Williams and Campbell both lived in the surrounding neighborhood. 

On Thursday, police hosted a gathering at Russo Park Playground to update residents on the situation and provide resources to, hopefully, curb the crime in the area.

“We mainly wanted to have this meeting to let everyone know that we are here, and the captain is flooding this area with resources,” Megan McLaughlin, 15th District community relations officer, told neighbors.

It’s the second meeting hosted by police to address the shootings. On Oct. 30, a pop-up gathering at Shelmire and Torresdale drew dozens of people. 

Capt. John Walker, commander of the 15th District, credited the torrent of shootings to battles for control of the area’s drug market. 

As more attention is focused on dealing in Kensington and North Philly, drug users driving into the city are instead pulling off I-95 and purchasing narcotics in Holmesburg, Walker believes.

Jackson, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 11 years, said the increased police presence has helped.

“It’s slowed down a little because cops have been around,” she said. 

In addition to more foot beats and patrol cars, other efforts are underway to bolster the area in the wake of the violence, Walker said. 

Workers from the Community Life Improvement Plan and the Department of Licenses and Inspections were recently out cleaning the neighborhood and sealing vacant properties. Walker said police also had several abandoned cars removed.

Several local men are in the process of organizing a mentorship group to help guide younger men who may be heading down the wrong path.

There is also talk about potentially getting funding to improve lighting, specifically in the alleyways near Torresdale Avenue.

Representatives from the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, Town Watch Integrated Services, the Tacony Police Athletic League and the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network were on hand for the meeting.

Walker said he hopes residents stay involved in building up their neighborhood, even if the gunfire becomes less frequent. 

“It’s your community,” Walker told residents. “The police can only do so much. If it comes to us, it’s already too late.” ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com.