By Charlotte Huffman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Fearing for the safety of some children in his North Philly neighborhood, one local man called police. But when that didn’t solve the problem he called the CBS 3 I-Team. That’s when Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter Charlotte Huffman went to work.
At busy intersections along North 5th Street and the Roosevelt Boulevard, young children go from driver to driver asking for money as cars and trucks whip by them.
It’s a frightening scene that our cameras caught day after day.
Many times the children were out during rush hour traffic. Large trucks and SEPTA buses, even an ambulance racing to a call, pass alarmingly close to the children.
One day a tow truck nearly hit a little girl barely tall enough to see into a car window.
“A tractor-trailer like that has a draft, suck a kid right under,” one man said when he saw the children from his car.
“That kid is too small to be in the middle of the street like that,” said another driver. “Someone could easily run them over, that’s a bad deal and where are the parents at?”
We asked one of the children if his mom ever comes with the kids.
“No,” he told us.
As we spoke to a group of the children, they told us their coach sends them to collect money for their dance team.
“We don’t count it,” one girl told us. “We just put it in a bag.”
She told us after that it goes to the dance coach.
We wanted to know if the money is really funding a dance group.
We found the dance coach, Rasheeda Clark, on Instagram. She’s the leader of the group that calls itself ‘Caution Queens and Kingz’.
She’s also the mother of some of the children.
The I-Team found her at a home nearby. We asked the woman who opened the door for Rasheeda and we were told that Rasheeda was not there, but moments later we ran into Clark’s daughter who took us to see her back at that house.
The same woman who answered the door earlier wasn’t talking this time when we addressed her as Rasheeda.
But the children were talking.
When we asked one little girl in the group if she was ever scared of being in the traffic she said she was.
“Yes ’cause this car just got out of line and almost hit me,” she explained.
Concerned neighbors say they’ve called police half a dozen times over the past few months about the children in the street.
One man in the neighborhood described seeing the police come by three or four times and telling the children to go home.
“Then they came right back,” he said.
When we called Philadelphia Police they told us that this issue should be handled by the city’s Department Of Human Services.
We called DHS. They would not look at our video, or sit down with us to talk about the children in the traffic.
Instead we were told to call police, but City Councilman Jim Kenney was interested in seeing our video.
“Clearly these kids are in danger,” he said. “Any police officer riding by this should put an end to it.”
“This little girl you can’t even see her, she doesn’t come up to the window,” said Kenney as he watched our video of the children walking down the street’s double yellow line alongside moving traffic. “This little fellow, he’s tiny.”
Councilman Kenney says he’s seen an increase in children panhandling across the city. And he points out that the danger isn’t just the potential for a car hitting a child, it’s also when their buckets are full of money.
“These days it’s not beyond someone to pull a gun and take the money from them,” he pointed out.
Kenney told us he thinks this is a DHS issue and said he would ask the department to look into the matter.
Friday afternoon, DHS who declined the I-Team’s requests for an interview, told Eyewitness News they will look at the I-Team’s video.
If you see children panhandling and in danger you may want to call the Department of Human Services and Philadelphia Police.
Philadelphia Department of Human Services 24 Hour Hotline: 215-683-6100 or http://www.phila.gov/dhs//index.html
To find your Philadelphia Police District: http://www.phillypolice.com/districts/