Pubdate: Fri, 02 Dec 2005
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
Copyright: 2005 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Elmer Smith


CAPT. JOHN Gallagher went to school for this stuff. He studied the 
abnormal psychology of criminal minds and the sociological factors 
that spawn violence.

But he probably learned all he really needed to know about the roots 
of violent crime the first time he stared into the cold eyes of a 
remorseless killer.

"What it comes down to," said Gallagher, who commands the Police 
Department's Major Crimes Unit, "is that some of these people are 
just downright mean."

Too mean to entertain a second thought before killing a man. Devoid 
of the basic humanity that keeps the rest of us from killing each 
other. Downright mean, with hearts as hollow as a gun barrel.

And they're making me mean - too mean to entertain my own second 
thought about how to redeem or rehabilitate them.

I'm losing interest in the search for root causes. I don't want reasons.

I want relief.

I don't need to know why some soulless thug gave himself permission 
to murder Terrell Pough. Was it for his car or over jealousy? Did they argue?

Answering those questions won't prevent the next cold-blooded 
killing. We need relief.

Antoine Riggins, 20, and Saul Rosario, 18, the pair arrested 
Wednesday for Pough's murder, may make an interesting study if it 
turns out they did it. We may find that Pough's murderers were abused 
as children or that they suffered the deprivations of poverty.

But that wasn't Terrell Pough's problem.

"The problem in this city is guns and drugs," Gallagher said. "You 
can't imagine what may be in the car next to you when

you're driving home at night.

"The bottom line is there are people whose moral compass is not like 
ours. You can't understand them.

"Public safety has to be our priority."

Like me, he wants relief.

The current plan, Gallagher tells me, is to deploy officers in swarms 
along the 27th Street corridor in eastern Grays Ferry, where 
shootings and aggravated assaults have become as regular as trash pickups.

"The area around 27th and Earp or 27th and Reed have been a concern 
for two years," Gallagher said. "We call it Sector Q. There has been 
a rash of shootings there this year.

"Some of it is drugs, of course. But when you peel the layers of the 
onion back, it's amazing how often it's not about organized crime 
activity at all."

The saturation strategy will involve making arrests for minor crimes 
that police often are too busy to pursue. They will serve warrants on 
fugitives, many of whom are hiding in plain sight.

And if they make a dent in Sector Q, they will swarm another 
high-crime area. The 18th and 19th districts in West Philadelphia are 
probably next.

If it sounds a lot like every other anti-crime campaign you've read 
about lately, that's because it is.

"This one doesn't have a label," Gallagher said. "But it's like what 
we called Operation Sunrise in Kensington."

Narcotics-strike forces, highway patrol and federal warrant servers 
will augment heightened patrols in targeted districts.

Will it work? It always does - for a while.

But then the virus mutates and infects another area until the 
response targets the next high-crime sector.

We can't count the lives that will be saved or the crimes that will 
be prevented. We can't, any more than we can find good reasons for 
why this keeps happening.

"We'll never figure it out," Gallagher said. "They're not like us. 
Our morals are no measuring rod."

But, for one neighborhood at a time, perhaps it will bring relief.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman