Pubdate: Sun, 26 May 2002
Source: Inquirer (PA)
Page: B1
Copyright: 2002 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Sam Wood


Twenty-three police districts. Twenty-three street parties. One thousand 

That was the goal as Mayor Street and Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson 
criss-crossed the city yesterday, launching Phase II of Operation Safe 
Streets, the city's aggressive antidrug initiative.

At the first rally, in the playground of the McDaniel Public School at 21st 
and Moore Streets, Street and Johnson asked for 1,000 volunteers to join 
town watch programs and become the eyes and ears of the police.

Street said he was looking for 55 volunteers from the first district.

"Since we started 24 days ago, crime is down and violence is down," Street 
roared from a dais festooned with red, white and blue balloons. "This is a 
safer city today, and we are making a public statement that we are never 
going to go back."

"Are you going to join us? Will you become a volunteer?" Johnson asked the 
150 people drawn by the free barbecue and the booming drums of the North 
Philadelphia Dazzling Diamonds Drill Team.

Several residents in the Point Breeze neighborhood gave Operation Safe 
Streets high marks.

"It's 100 percent better," said Judy Brewer, 48, as she stood in the 
doorway of the My Way Cafe, where she tends bar. The bar sits on one of the 
more notorious drug corners, at 21st and Mifflin Streets.

"It was bad. You see the doors [of the bar] open today. We used to have to 
keep it locked and buzz people in. It was that bad," Brewer said. "Now you 
see people coming out, sweeping up. See how nice it looks? I can actually 
sit out on the steps this summer."

The operation to eradicate open-air drug dealing began May 1 with hundreds 
of officers taking positions at more than 200 corners and blocks.

The plan is to discourage drug buyers, police have said. Still, there have 
been arrests, 1,027 since the program started.

Officials initially estimated that the program would cost $1.2 million a 
month. But those figures were based on covering up to 400 locations a day. 
Johnson has said the actual cost will probably be less, with the city 
saving millions in the long run by cutting costs on police, court time, 
treatment and incarceration.

Yesterday, Karl Jackson, 49, watched the proceedings from the front step of 
his home on the 1800 block of 21st Street. He didn't hold back his skepticism.

"This has never been a drug corner," Jackson said, dismissing the block 
party and the speeches. "This ain't nothing but a show."

James Johnson, 43, thought so at first, too. Johnson, who has lived on the 
1700 block of 21st Street for 35 years, said he now saw the police out all 
night long and said the number of shootings had decreased.

"You don't see them selling drugs around here all day and all night 
anymore. So I think it's working," Johnson said.
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