Pubdate: Thu, 09 May 2002
Source: Inquirer (PA)
Copyright: 2002 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Robert Moran


Men United for a Better Philadelphia aims to complement the current police 

Calling it phase two of Operation Safe Streets, scores of community 
activists yesterday announced the creation of a grassroots organization to 
sway young men away from the illegal drug trade in Philadelphia.

Men United for a Better Philadelphia will go to the city's street corners 
"not [to] confront young men, but talk to young men," said Bilal Qayyum, 
executive of the Father's Day Rally Committee, at a news conference in 
front of the Hank Gathers Memorial Recreation Center at 25th and Diamond 
Streets in North Philadelphia.

Organizers said the effort is intended to complement the police operation 
that started last week, in which officers were redeployed to several 
hundred open-air drug markets citywide.

"It is not just a police action. It's a unified action," said Anthony 
Murphy of Philadelphia Operation Town Watch.

"We need the partnerships," said Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson. 
"We can't do it alone."

The new men's support group will first target the 22d Police District in 
North Philadelphia, which organizers said had the city's highest number of 
homicides last year, with a motorcade tomorrow evening.

The group will recruit block captains, provide Town Watch training, and 
arrange neighborhood job fairs in the 22d District, which includes the area 
between Montgomery and Lehigh Avenues west of 10th Street.

Organizers released figures showing that drug-related homicides - 526 out 
of 1,264 - accounted for more than 41 percent of all homicides in the last 
four years.

Organizers also announced that a march against guns, drugs and violence 
will be held at 10 a.m. June 1 from Broad and Spring Garden Streets to the 
Philadelphia Museum of Art, where musical artist Jill Scott will perform.

In a related development, Dempsey Jones 3d of the U.S. Drug Enforcement 
Administration in Philadelphia said his agency is expanding a school 
"adoption" program, promoting an antidrug message and offering mentoring to 

The agency has adopted about one school a year; Jones said he hopes to 
adopt up to a dozen schools by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Operation Safe Streets is having an impact beyond disrupting the 
drug-corner trade, Johnson said.

The Police Department will soon release statistics showing that Operation 
Safe Streets has led to a decrease in crime in the city since the campaign 
was launched last Wednesday, Johnson said.

C.B. Kimmins, a longtime antidrug activist, said he was thrilled with the 
operation so far, calling it the "greatest effort ever by the Philadelphia 
Police Department."

Prevention Point, a city-funded needle-exchange program for drug addicts, 
reported fewer people showing up at the program's mobile sites around the city.

At the same time, "our requests for referrals to detox and other treatments 
have increased in the past week," said executive director Kasey Cook.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth