Philadelphia received more than $358,000 to add a research team from Temple to the Kensington Initiative, a government-led project aimed at reducing drug violence in the River Ward neighborhood.
The research team, led by Caterina Roman, a criminal justice professor, will investigate whether or not law enforcement has been successful in reducing the number of violent drug organizations in the neighborhood, Roman said.
Roman will analyze data from 911 calls, drug arrests and overdose death reports for the initiative, which is a partnership between Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and city and federal law enforcement agencies, she said.
The Innovation Prosecution Strategies Program, a research program at the United States Department of Justice, provided the two-year grant to Temple this year, according to a press release.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office reported that so far in 2019, there have been 10,219 drug-related incidents in the city, with 2,354 in the 24th police district, which includes Kensington.
Melissa Francis, the assistant chief deputy attorney general, said the Kensington Initiative began as a short term investigation of drug trafficking organizations in August 2018.
Roman sat down with the different organizations involved in the collaboration to write the grant proposal that would put her on the initiative as a researcher, she said.
She worked to develop a set of performance measurements that would give the law enforcement feedback each month on how successful they have been, she added.
“Performance measures could be related to arrests, could be related to the level of prosecution, it could be related to the amount of times and sentencing, how long is the individual arrested, how long are they kept off the street,” Roman said.
Jacklin Rhoads, the communications director for the PA Attorney General’s office, said she is looking forward to seeing what the research aspect of the initiative reveals.
“Our office and our partners in this are taking real action to address real problems that are happening [in Kensington],” Rhoads said. “We are looking forward to seeing what the Temple researchers find effective and what we could be doing better to really address the needs of that community.”
Members of the Bureau of Narcotics Investigations and Drug Control have visited community meetings to hear from residents after conducting drug busts in the neighborhoods, Francis said.
“I hear parents say all the time, ‘I can’t have my kids play outside’ or ‘we have to move out of this neighborhood as soon as we can afford to,’” Roman said. “I think seeing people use their parks and having block parties and events really be indicative of success.”