If there is a town watch group anywhere that isn't in a perpetual donation and membership drive, let them speak now.
On weekend days, the West Frankford Town Watch can often be found asking for change along Harbison Avenue near Roosevelt Boulevard, seeking the donations to pay for more flashlights, batteries, gas money and other equipment to supplement the radios and vests that the city provides by way of the Greater Urban Affairs Council. Every Monday, Mawson starts calling his members to see who will be available the coming weekend.
"Money helps," Mawson says. "But we could always use more people. We'd love to have more patrols, cover more ground and get out more nights."
Most neighborhoods are either too safe to elicit fear enough in their civic-minded residents to make them town watch members or too overrun with crime to have many residents left who think their neighborhood is worth saving. Neighborhoods in transition don't stay like that for very long, so town watches are tricky things to steward.
Mawson is a 1987 graduate of Frankford High School. He still lives at Darrah and Foulkrod streets. But most of his members don't live in Frankford.
Pappas remains a Mayfair kid, a 1974 alumnus of Lincoln High School -- a school Hriczo, a Feltonville
native, also graduated from, 24 years later.
Mawson is the kind of guy who went out and bought a $700 police scanner around 2004 when the Philadelphia department had just dropped its analog radio signal and went digital.
"Back then, pretty much the only people buying the new scanners were truckers and drug dealers," Mawson says, before pausing, holding in a laugh that tosses back his hair with a shake of his ruddy cheeks. "And me."
Pappas characterizes himself as generally "civic and politically minded." Formerly the 62nd Republican ward leader, Pappas talks about what happened to Frankford -- from prime shopping district to blight.
"I wanted to find a way to make the place I grew up around better," he says.
Hriczo is bubbly, sarcastic and cutting. She has short black hair, dresses comfortably and, on this night, nearly never leaves her computer chair. She has a plasma screen TV nearly the size of her living room wall that has a Will Ferrell movie on low. She first got into community policing as a teenager hanging around the Feltonville Rec Center.
"I figured working with town watch was better than getting chased by the police," she teases. "Though I still got into some trouble."
And Hriczo is a teaser. On this night, she won't leave Mawson alone -- picking on him for his weight and his age and anything else she can. But it's not mean spirited. Mawson parries back, but he's no match for how quickly and consistently Hriczo digs.
If hyperbole were any less a crime, one might describe them as acting like family.
Around 1:30 a.m., Pappas pulls into Wawa for the second break of another in a long line of Friday nights given to a cause no more than few dozen people know about. Mawson buys a couple coffees and they bring one back to base -- to Hriczo, who sleepily comes out to the street to get it before the last hour of the night's patrol.
If every man has to give himself to something, then the act of two single men -- Pappas lives with his ailing mother and Mawson lives alone -- bringing coffee back to their makeshift town watch headquarters to make it through one last Friday night sure seems to be evidence enough that they've found where they'll be giving themselves.
Mawson and crew have their stories.
They talk about the nuisance bar they patrolled, reported to police and followed to zoning meetings until it was shut down. They've helped drag hoses for firemen and lit up with spotlights dark corners of parks and schools to break up groups of kids when things looked like they might get out of hand. Mawson carries crime scene tape, tools and extra equipment. They are, in the word he keeps using, "prepared."
"We make sure to get out of the car, so we get to know the people. The beat officers know us. We sometimes beat the police to crimes or help out at routine stops, like burglary alarms that are accidentally tripped. We direct traffic or do whatever else will get the officers back to the paperwork so they can get back to patrolling." Mawson says, noting that most town watches are more talk than action. "We do a lot of things."
It's hard to measure the impact West Frankford Town Watch has had -- or any town watch for that matter. What is the value of having a group of residents care enough about their community that they pour their time and energy into it without end or thanks?
"I'm not sure," Pappas says quietly, while idling in the parking lot of a packed Brazilian dance club while Mawson talks to some patrons standing outside. "But I'm not sure I'd want to see what would happen if we stopped."