SOUTHWEST PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia's 18th District says residents will see changes at a recreation center where a triple shooting left a teen dead last month.
A family out at Christy Recreation Center on a beautiful spring evening. Just outside the gate Philadelphia police van with officers keeps a watchful eye. This is a court at the same center where 16-year-old Kahree Simmons was shot and killed and two others hurt in the shooting three weeks ago. It’s one of several shootings at recreation centers in the city in recent weeks.
"We want to transform these rec centers into active places where the community really has a stake in its safety and what goes on," 18th District Police Captain Matt Gillespie said.
Gillespie has been working for the past few months on a plan with the Parks and Rec Commission to make the Christy Rec Center safer. In a month, neighbors will see a change in what happens inside.
"Such as dance programs, organized sports leagues, chess leagues, mentoring clubs, and police youth panels," said Captain Gillespie.
He says they're looking for volunteers to help provide the activities. So far, they have 15 signed up.
"From retirees, university professors, block captains and they have to get clearances and go through proper channels. But we don't just want to put officers outside the rec center and call it a day," he said.
Jamal Johnson is the founder of Stop Killing Us supports the idea and is asking the community to adopt any rec center around the city.
"We need foot patrols in the community period. This is sort of like a foot patrol in a playground," said Johnson who posted on social media a plea for the community, particularly black men, to help out. Even serve as mediators in addition to police security.
"I don’t think we should be doing anything out there without the company of police at some point. Like I say, this is a two-part thing. Nobody is going to solve this by themselves," said Johnson.
Captain Gillespie says the programming with consistent days and hours at Christy Rec will start May first.
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