IN A DRAFTY church auditorium in Southwest Germantown, a few dozen residents had a chance to talk with Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey about their neighborhood.
But at the meeting Tuesday night - also attended by Councilwoman Cindy Bass, Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel and newly promoted Inspector Verdell Johnson, who recently vacated the commanding-officer position in the area's 39th Police District - it was Johnson's successor who made the boldest promise.
"Just tell us, and we'll be there," Capt. Mike Craighead said, responding to a longtime resident who voiced her concerns about lagging police response in a neighborhood oft pockmarked by shootings and drug-dealing.
"We will respond," Craighead assured her. "I guarantee that."
He and Ramsey emphasized two points about police working to reduce crime and other problems in the area: that cops and neighbors need to work as partners, and that residents should use the city's 3-1-1 system and attend Police Service Area meetings to inform officials of quality-of-life issues, rather than calling 9-1-1.
"Problems like that, I don't consider them to be minor. I really don't," Ramsey said. "We have to be more aggressive in terms of dealing with those kinds of problems."
But, he added, officers need to prioritize calls for service. And issues that could be handled via 3-1-1, like abandoned cars, can't be prioritized, he said.
Bass advised residents of her office's work to combat blight in the area and asked that they call about abandoned property.
Meeting organizer and community activist Allison Weiss read questions from neighbors, ranging from the police department's plan to address gun violence and drug-dealing to explanation of how the PSA model works. Weiss said she was pleased with how the meeting went.
Near the end of the gathering, Ramsey told residents that their role is "invaluable" and reminded them that partnership is key.
"We need the community, and the community needs us," he said. "Success has to be maintained over time. Only the community can do that."