An early-morning melee that originated from a party at a home near the Goodway Missionary Baptist Church at 255 Atkins Street on March 3 generated much conversation during last Tuesday’s Philadelphia Mayor and Board of Alderman meeting.

Three people went to the hospital as a result. One was stabbed; one had been punched in the face; and, a third person had been shot. He was later transported to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Shots also struck the church.

Mayor James Young and members of the board acknowledged this has been an ongoing problem for decades. And they were looking for solutions.

“This has been one spot that has been a drawing place for negative activity,” Young said. 

“I am going to ask this board to approve the extra manpower (for the police department).

“I am going to try this first. But my next move will be to deem it a nuisance and a danger for the city. Then we will go to what can be applied from the state side under the law,” Young said. “We are not blaming him (the homeowner), we are blaming those who are coming to see him or coming to be where he is. With the surrounding neighbors, our phone is lit up with calling, texting. It has gotten to a point where we have too much going on in the area,” Young said.

Alderman Joe Tullos said it is going to take a constant police presence to keep the peace.

“In the past when there was trouble 1 would drive by at 10 p.m. and there wouldn’t be a soul around,” said Tullos. “It will be quiet, then at 2-3 in the morning, it all breaks loose.

“ ... I addressed this two or three months ago,” Tullos said. “There was a brick house behind the church that got its front window shot out. This is continuous, continuous, continuous. Whatever is going on is going on in the house is spilling out into the street and something has got to be done. Maybe we need to set up a portable police precinct in the church parking lot and have a presence with the police,” Tullos said.

Assistant Police Chief Julian Greer said the department would need extra manpower by calling off duty officers into work. (Chief Grant Myers was out of town.)

“With us being shorthanded, we have three police officers out at night,” Greer said. “It will be hard to just cover just that area. But if (the board) would approve the extra manpower and calling people in, if something is going on, that’s where they will stay and saturate the area.”

During the meeting, Greer was asked how short the department actually was. He mentioned one officer is out on sick leave and another resigned effective March 8.

“As far as I know, we have 28 slots,” Greer said. “We have 22 positions filled.”

When asked what problems they faced in getting to full staff, Greer said, “We do background checks and some of those who apply have records like the people we are after. And, people just don’t want to do this type of work anymore.”

Tullos said there had to be follow through with whatever plan the town comes up with.  

“I don’t mind moving in on top of them; if that’s what it takes, so be it,” Tullos said. “At the same time, it’s not going to work it we say what we are going to do here at the board meeting, and then we don’t put them (police officers) over there in the street and do some community policing. It’s not going to get any better.”

Alderwoman Cassie Henson expressed frustration with the ongoing problem.

“It was being policed and then somebody dropped the ball,” Henson said. “I have been accused that it my fault; that I am not doing anything because he (the homeowner) is my uncle. But here is the thing. I am not law enforcement. That’s what we pay (the police) to do. I’m not getting out there, risking my life to get people out of the parking lot.

“I talked to Rev Willie (Rush) and he said talk to chief about the cars parking in the parking lot. I did that (talked to Chief Myers). He put the sign up. He said if any violators were in the parking lot, they would be towed and everybody was in agreement with that. (But cars are not being towed.) So nobody has been doing what they were supposed to do as far as law enforcement goes. I have been told there have been some comments made on the board that it is my responsibility to go over there and tell him to stop and it is not. It is our police job to go there and do what they have got to do. If he constantly has company, I can’t tell him what to do in his house but we do pay people (to deal with it) when it gets out in the streets.”

In the end, aldermen voted to approve overtime for the police department to call in off duty officers when problems occur over the weekend in this area.

When contacted Tuesday morning, Chief Myers said the department was keeping a close surveillance on the area with the extra officers. There were no problems reported this past weekend.

Mayor Young said officers can’t go in the house but they should be ready when partygoers get into the streets.

“The police will try to prevent the gatherings on the streets, sitting on cars and drinking,” Young said. “We want to doing a better job of moving traffic along. We can police the street and minimizing the people gathering.”

Alderman Leroy Clemons said the public can play a big part in resolving this matter.

“The community has to rise up and put a stop to it,” Clemons said. “If you see things, call and let someone know something is happening. It is not feasible to have a police officer there all the time. Call and we can check it out,” Clemons said.

“No community should be afraid. If you call, we are going to respond,” Clemons added. “I like the idea of patrolling.”

Clemons urged people to provide information when they see the law being broken.

“By the time the police get there, most of the people who break the law are gone,” Clemons said. “Nobody will say anything. We have got to support the police and provide information. They can’t go on hearsay.”