“We have a lot of police here. It’s not necessarily a matter of more laws, it’s a matter of being able to enforce the laws.”
Philadelphia business owners on the city’s famous South Street have dealt with an uptick in violence and crime.
A few told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the lack of law “enforcement is creating a climate of impunity that climaxes in lethal force.”
Ron Dangler, a veteran of the Iraq War, owns Dobbs, a rock club on South Street. The shooting on Saturday night happened by his club. He ran out, helped authorities tend to the victims, and noticed the police quickly secured the scene.
But the shooting caused bands from two record labels to cancel their appearances.
Then, on Sunday, the authorities closed South Street, so that meant no crowds for the PHL Pride Festival:
The record label owners “asked me if this is South Street all the time. ‘This is not the people that come to our bars and restaurants,’ I said to them. ‘These are young kids who have nothing to do, and it’s summer, and they want freedom to do what they want, with no repercussions.’”
The Tacony native, a Drexel University graduate, said the city doesn’t generally feel more dangerous than 20 years ago, when he and his friends toured live-music venues from the original J.C. Dobbs club whose site his bar occupies to the North Star Bar in Fairmount.
The police arrested two suspects in the shooting, looking for a third suspect. Three people were killed, and 11 people had injuries.
Dangler thinks the police not “enforcing anti-nuisance laws” has encouraged people to do whatever they want to do:
“The problem is, they’re not nipping it in the bud,” Dangler said. “Two Fridays ago, we had 100 people in the middle of this intersection, Third and South. They shut down traffic, the girls started twerking [dancing suggestively] in the middle of the street. Guys jumped on cars … . But there were no arrests, no detainees.”
“The worst is, you get the motorbikes, dirt bikes, ATVs. It’s as if the police have a no-chase policy. It isn’t enough that all the police are present — that’s reassuring for the tourists and us business owners — but the element that comes around, they drive around the cops in what is supposed to be an area closed to traffic, and so they come to believe nobody’s going to stop them.
Woolly Mammoth owner Chris McNichol doesn’t want to hear about gun control. How about enforcing the laws on the Philadelphia books:
The shooting is not just “a gun-control problem,” agreed Chris McNichol, owner of Woolly Mammoth, a sports bar at 430 South, who posted on Instagram. It “must be viewed as one of far too many acts of lawlessness, criminal behavior and violence on the street and in the city.” In five hours, 237 people “liked” the post, many forwarded it, and no one complained, McNichol said.
“The complete lack of law and order on South Street and in too many neighborhoods” is the deeper cause, to McNichol. “Protect your citizens by creating AND ENFORCING laws,” he added, with emphasis. “Arrest individuals who commit crimes” and “keep dangerous individuals from committing repeat crimes. … Allow police to do their job” so Philadelphians can “enjoy their city without endless fear, and businesses can prosper, not to crumble under the weight of fear.”
Mike Harris heads the South Street Headhouse District, said: “We have a lot of police here. It’s not necessarily a matter of more laws, it’s a matter of being able to enforce the laws.”
West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative President Jabari K. Jones blamed the politics:
Jabari K. Jones, president of the West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative, said that feeling of safety is what allows retail and restaurant centers such as South Street, City Avenue, or the University City business district west of Penn to draw crowds from beyond nearby residents — while many other shopping districts have a tough time attracting visitors to areas perceived as crime centers.
Jones blamed the city’s political trends of the last few years. “There’s a fear of progressive retaliation against business owners” who complain, he said. “They can get protested, they can get boycotts. So they stay silent. But more people are saying ‘enough is enough!’” He predicted that next year’s city elections would attract candidates who backed a stronger anti-crime response.
It’s not just South Street. Philadelphia has seen a rise in carjackings and robberies. The city has lost a lot of convenience stores:
“Right now we have a lot of problems with the city of Philadelphia. We are closing left and right,” said Manzoor Chughtai, the president of the Franchise Owners Association. “Robbers are coming in, they’re just robbing the place left and right.”
Chughtai says there is an increasing number of stores being shuttered due to these crimes.
“We have now lost about 15-20 stores in the city of Philadelphia. Nobody wants to take over the store. Nobody wants to run the business in the city of Philadelphia. Very dangerous,” said Chughtai.
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