June 24, 2018
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Michael Chitwood sees violence jump in Pa., points to guns

Michael Chitwood
By Anthony R. Wood, The Philadelphia Inquirer

It occurred in front of a stone twin along a tranquil street with the pastoral name Parkview Road, but this was not a typical suburban crime.
A 25-year-old man was ambushed shortly after midnight by someone who lay in wait in the bushes, shot him seven times, and left him to fight for his life. His 4-year-old daughter and her mother were in the house at the time.
Then again, it happened in Upper Darby Township, Delaware County, which is no typical suburb, and in the view of its sometimes controversial police chief, Michael Chitwood, former police chief for Portland, Maine, not a suburb at all. “Upper Darby really is a city,” said Chitwood, who oversees the $24 million annual police budget in a township of 82,000-plus people.
And it has had its share of urban-style violence recently.
So far this year, three homicides have occurred there, including one last month in which a barber was shot in broad daylight in his shop in the presence of a 5-year-old. By comparison, two homicides were reported in the township all of last year, said Chitwood.
The victim of the early Wednesday shooting was identified as Khayree Reid, who was living at the home in the 7500 block of Parkview with his daughter and girlfriend. He was in critical condition at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.
“It’s a stone hit,” said Chitwood. He said the victim had $1,700 on his person, but nothing had been taken from him. Police were searching for the killer. Chitwood said the shooting evidently was drug-related, however it was unclear precisely what precipitated the shooting.
“It’s the world we live in,” he said
In 48 years as a police officer, starting in Philadelphia, Chitwood said, while he has encountered a depressing similarity in the nature of crimes, one thing is different these days.
“There’s a more violent criminal out there,” he said in a recent interview. “They all have guns. They could care less about life and property. They perceive themselves with a badge of honor to hurt, kill, or maim a victim.
“It’s amazing, the guns on the streets.”
On a recent visit to the police station, a plastic bin overflowed with assorted pistols, a rifle, and even a hand grenade. Confiscated weapons are melted down for scrap metal. “I don’t want them back in the community,” he said.
The most recent FBI Uniform Crime Reports show that overall violent crime has fallen in the region, but Upper Darby was an exception, showing a 30 percent increase in 2010 compared with 2006. Chitwood said he didn’t need statistics to tell him that he had a crime problem. In 2010, police responded to over 60,000 “trouble calls.”
Since he arrived in Upper Darby in 2005, he has set up bicycle patrols and a community-outreach office staffed full-time by a civilian. He has deployed drug squads to neighborhood hot spots, and hasn’t been shy about authorizing overtime. “People like it,” he said, “but the budget can’t handle it.”
(c)2012 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Distributed by MCT Information Services


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