Pubdate: Wed, 19 Jun 2002
Source: Inquirer (PA)
Copyright: 2002 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Chris Mondics, Inquirer Washington Bureau


Costs Are Mounting For Operation Safe Streets, Which Began May 1.
Mayor Street Asked Pa.'S Senators For Help Yesterday.

WASHINGTON - With costs mounting for his ambitious crackdown on drug
trafficking in the city, Mayor Street came here yesterday seeking
money for the program from the Bush administration and Congress.

Street spent part of the afternoon huddling with Sens. Rick Santorum
and Arlen Specter, both Pennsylvania Republicans, mapping strategy for
wringing the funds from Congress during budget deliberations. Both
senators promised to push for more money, possibly by establishing a
federal pilot program that might serve as a model for other big cities.

But with mounting budget pressures on the federal government, the
request for money to help pay for Street's Operation Safe Streets
likely will be a tough sell, not only on the Hill, but also at the
White House.

"It is obviously difficult to get an extra appropriation for
Philadelphia when other big American cities, which have the same
problems, are not getting it," Specter said.

Under the Safe Streets program, which began May 1, the city has
intensified Philadelphia police patrols on several hundred street
corners plagued with high levels of drug traffic.

The police have arrested nearly 1,500 people so far and confiscated
hundreds of thousands of dollars in drugs and cash. More important,
residents in areas where the police patrols have increased say, those
neighborhoods have become livable for the first time in years.

Children who once were restricted to staying inside for fear of drug
violence now can go and out play.

Some neighborhood groups have renewed block patrols to assist the
police, encouraged by the additional police manpower.

Earlier this month, a city official said the operation was costing up
to $500,000 a week in police overtime.

Payroll information from the City Controller's Office suggests the
overtime cost may be even higher.

In May 2001, the city paid a total of $3.5 million in police overtime.
This May, the city paid $6.44 million - nearly $3 million more than
last year.

In Philadelphia yesterday, Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson
said the operation was not costing that much, although he could not
provide an exact figure.

On a single day recently, 110 police officers were subpoenaed to
appear in court, Johnson said. They all were on overtime.

Johnson said the cost of Safe Streets would be going down because
police were seeing less of a need to continually cover certain drug

The cost, he said, is "not as much as it was last week. Next week will
be less than this week."

For Safe Streets, some officers are doubling their paychecks due to
overtime, records show. For example, one officer whose regular
two-week salary is $1,762 also earned $1,817 in overtime during one
recent pay period.

City Councilman Angel L. Ortiz, who chairs the public-safety
committee, said he wanted to know how Street is paying for the operation.

"We don't know where the money is coming from," Ortiz said yesterday.
"The mayor was talking not too long ago about not having money to pay
for the tax cuts."

Street, who declined to say how much the city would be requesting,
yesterday reiterated promises that, despite the cost, the program
would not be shut down. He said it was key to his larger initiative of
creating a more livable city by cleaning up vacant lots and helping to
establish more middle-class housing.

"My position here is very fundamental: This is a program we cannot
afford not to do," said Street, who spent the day pushing for other
projects as well, including expansion of Philadelphia International
Airport and deepening the Delaware River port. "If we cannot make
people safe in their neighborhoods, if they don't have a reasonable
expectation that open-air drug markets are not going to flourish, then
most of the rest of this doesn't matter."

Street acknowledged the difficulty in getting more money for Safe
Streets, saying that the city faced stiff competition from other
jurisdictions making similar arguments. He said he expected that many
of Philadelphia's inner-ring suburbs would push for funds, arguing
that drug dealers displaced by the Philadelphia crackdown had moved to
their communities.

"My expectation is that before long there will be other requests from
other municipalities that are in the shadow of the city of
Philadelphia," Street said. "I think very shortly Montgomery, Chester,
Delaware, Bucks [and] South Jersey are all going to be saying we have
to have programs."

The strategy for Operation Safe Streets is not to make mass arrests,
the mayor has said, but to disrupt street sales of drugs by
redeploying hundreds of officers to stand watch at hot spots of
narcotics activity. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake