Philly Seeks 10,000 Men to Guard Streets

Mary-Claire Dale, AP, September 13, 2007

[Sylvester Johnson], the city’s embattled police chief, acknowledging that police alone cannot quell a run of deadly violence, has called on 10,000 black men to patrol the streets to reduce crime.

Sylvester Johnson, who is black, says black men have a duty to protect more vulnerable residents. He wants each volunteer to pledge to work three hours a day for at least 90 days.

“It’s time for African-American men to stand up,” Johnson told the Philadelphia Daily News. . .

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We’re going to put men on the street.

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The program’s backers include Dennis Muhammad, a former Nation of Islam official who has been hired by police departments in Detroit, Syracuse, N.Y., and other cities to conduct community-sensitivity training.

Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth-largest city, has nearly 1.5 million residents, 44 percent of them black. It has notched 294 homicides this year. More than 80 percent of the slayings involve handguns, and most involve young black males.

Johnson plans to introduce the “Call to Action: 10,000 Men, It’s a New Day” program on Oct. 21, three months before his planned retirement.

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Johnson, who had led the police department for seven years, appears increasingly frustrated by the daily gun violence. He and other city leaders have blamed the Legislature for not passing gun-control measures.

Mayor John F. Street, whose term is up at the beginning of 2008, has voiced support for the program, but it was not clear whether he would become involved. His office did not return a call for comment Thursday, nor did Johnson’s office.

Street and Johnson have both endured withering criticism from frustrated residents and community leaders who say they should do more to halt the violence.

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