24th Police District gets new captain

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Shannon McDonald | March 11 | Fishtown Spirit

This article ran on Page 7 in the March 11 issue of The Fishtown Spirit, where I work as a writer and copy editor.

Captain Daniel Castro is the new leader of the 24th District

Captain Daniel Castro is the new leader of the 24th District

An old marketing campaign for the Fraternal Order of Police featured a poster depicting a wounded police officer in front his squad car. “You wouldn’t do it for a million bucks,” the poster read, “but we do it for a whole lot less,”

Two decades and several slain police officers later, Captain Daniel Castro of the 24th District knows that statement is truer than ever. With just three weeks at the 24th under his belt, Castro is vowing to do all he can to bring the communities together and make them safer for the residents and the officers who patrol them.

“The community needs to do its part in crime prevention,” the 24-year veteran of the department said. The captain is taking serious steps to unite community members and police officers.

Castro is in the early stages of setting up a hotline for the district, which will allow people to anonymously report suspicious activity in their neighborhoods. The hotline will be effective for people who need to make complaints about their neighbors, and for combating drug activity. It won’t be for emergency calls, but for more persistent problems. This way, officers in the district can investigate the complaints and work toward eliminating the problems.

Among these problems, the captain said, are warrants.

There are a “significant number of warrants in the 24th District,” he said. “I’m going to make a serious effort to track them down.”

Part of that effort is in the form of community meetings, where residents can voice their concerns and get a better idea of what’s going on in their neighborhoods.

As the Community Relations Officer, “I handle day-to-day complaints and organize and conduct community meetings,” said Officer Tina Willis, who works closely with the captain. Willis attends every community meeting and brings a district map with her, so people can learn which areas see the most criminal activity.

In order for community members to get better acquainted with the district, they first have to know each other. Many of the district’s residents don’t speak English, which can create neighborhood barriers. Castro is determined not to let this interfere with his plans to help the community.

“I have a responsibility to reach out to all ethnicities,” the captain said.

Captain Castro and his team: officers Maureen Burns, Sharon Jonas and Tina Willis

Captain Castro's team: officers Maureen Burns, Sharon Jonas and Tina Willis

Two other officers work alongside Castro to make that extra effort to help the community. Crime Prevention Officer Sharon Jonas will reach out to people through the local media, helping The Spirit publish a weekly neighborhood crime report to keep neighbors in the know. Victim Assistant Officer Maureen Burns helps crime victims get back on their feet emotionally and financially. Along with Captain Castro, Officers Willis, Jonas and Burns are protecting the 24th District.

Community protection isn’t the only thing on Castro’s mind. With the recent deaths of Officer John Pawlowski, Sgt. Timothy Simpson and Sgt. Stephen Liczbinsk fresh on everyone’s minds and hearts, the captain needs to protect his officers, too.

“I have a lot of confidence in cops of the 24th District,” he proudly said of his officers.

Castro said he is not concerned that the recent violence against the police force will put his cops on edge. He’s not worried about knee-jerk, reactions, he said, because officers know how to handle themselves.

Although the captain expects complaints against cops to go up with increased law enforcement, he hopes police officers’ presence in the community will comfort residents and eventually lead to more respect for the police department. But the captain knows it’s an uphill battle.

“I know there are police officers who may be too aggressive,” he said with regret. But Castro will hold them accountable for their actions, and believes that as his officers continue to act professionally, community members will be encouraged to work with the district to prevent crime. It’s things like that, the captain said, which boost officers’ morale.

Castro said he is excited about working closely with the community, and he believes the weekly crime report is a big step in crime prevention.

Burns agrees. “This is something we really needed to do in the district,” she told The Spirit. Burns said she’s enjoyed working the captain so far, and appreciates his fresh ideas, which she thinks will reduce crime in the district.

Captain Castro sees beyond that. He hopes his efforts won’t just reduce crime, but improve the quality of life in the district.

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