New captain in charge

A Northeast Philly native has transitioned from commanding the Narcotics Bureau
to running the 17th Police District.

By Amanda L. Snyder

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 3 | Posted Jan. 24, 2013

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Capt. Martin Derbyshire

Photo by Greg Bezanis

Capt. Martin Derbyshire started the new year at a fresh post, which was not necessarily going to be permanent. 

After spending most of 2012 as the Narcotics Bureau’s captain, Derbyshire was sent to fill a void at the 17th District Jan. 2 after then-Capt. Anthony Washington was promoted to the inspector of the Narcotics Bureau’s Intensive Drug Investigation Division.

“Whenever there’s promotions, they have to move the commanders around,” Derbyshire said. “As a captain, it’s reasonable to move posts around to fill in gaps.”

While he spent time as a lieutenant at South Detective Division, 2301 S. 24th St., he has been trying to learn each intersection in the South Philly portion he now guards more closely.

“I also have to get in the car and drive around with the police radio on to get a feel for what’s going on on a daily basis,” he said Friday. “That also involves coming in at night, too. … As the hours change and the sun goes down, we have different problems, so I have to do some of that, too.”

In his two weeks on the job, he also has made ties with school police officers and neighborhood groups to stay on top of what is happening in the district, which includes South of South, as well as the parts of Grays Ferry, Newbold and Point Breeze that fall north of Moore Street. 

“[I’m] making sure I’m aware of the problems and the street officers are aware of them and addressing them as they present themselves to us,” he said. “Every neighborhood is different and you have to get a feel for that.”

On a daily basis he analyzes crime reports, and is noticing car break-ins are often resulting when people leave valuables visible and burglaries are commonly occurring when residents do not lock their doors. 

“We’re always working with the community to make sure they know what’s going on and I want to make sure we keep doing that,” he said.

To spread the word on crime prevention tips and alerts, the 17th District has Swift Reach, a program capable of making phone calls by block. 

“Most of the programs that are in place we’re going to keep going, but as I go along, I’m sure I’ll come up with some of my own ideas,” the 50-year-old said.

His main priority though is to keep some of Washington’s downward trends heading in the same direction. 

“The prior captain did a lot of work here to keep violent crime reduced, specifically gun violence, and I want to maintain that,” he said noting his predecessor was highly revered in the neighborhoods. “I want to maintain that good work.”

Already pleased with his staff’s knowledge of the streets, he still enjoys hearing feedback. 

“They speak highly of the officers here,” he said of residents’ unsolicited opinions. “They’ll usually have a little story for me. … They think enough to tell me. That tells me we’re on the right track and I just want to keep that going.”

After graduating from Holy Family University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Derbyshire became a SEPTA police officer for more than a year while he waited for the City to hire him. 

“I’m a third generation Philadelphia police officer. My grandfather and father were both Philadelphia police, so I had that pretty early,” he said of his career desires.

Hired in 1986, Derbyshire finished the Police Academy, and was assigned to North Philly’s 25th District. Four years later, he was promoted to detective, serving at East Detective Division and Internal Affairs Bureau. Becoming a sergeant in 2000, he spent time in Northwest Philly’s 5th District, Advanced Training Unit and the Police Academy. He was promoted to lieutenant in ’05 and served at North Philly’s 22nd District and South Detectives, as well as the department advocate for the Police Board of Inquiry, for which he was promoted to captain in 2010. He was transferred to the Narcotics Bureau last year. 

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Comments 1 - 3 of 3
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1. Anonymous said... on Jan 24, 2013 at 11:59AM

“I hope this new capt. is more friendly to developers and people wanting to improve this area rather than capt. Washington who even voted NO to new bars and cafes. We need a better 17th to grow as another way to stop crime. Just price them all out and the crime rate will drop.”

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2. Wilbur H. Monstaf said... on Jan 25, 2013 at 01:51AM

“stop whining...either adapt to your new neighborhood or go back to where you came from”

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3. MMK said... on Jan 28, 2013 at 03:24PM

“Who's whining? He said, 'This place, there has to be a captain here. They moved me and I'm really enjoying it. I like it.'" Or are you referring to 'Anonymous?' Because s/he is also right. Development is the way our neighborhood is going to get better, and it's coming whether certain fringe groups of residents want it or not. I welcome the change. We need it in the 17th!”


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