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Philadelphia’s new mayor, Democrat Cherelle Parker, has declared a public emergency that targets the streets of Kensington for a massive clean-up. The clean-up will include eradicating the infamous drug culture there, which to most observers is beyond redemption.
“The streets of Kensington four days into the New Year remain a place of open drug abuse, where tents shield against the cold and the addicted writhe in agony,” Fox News reported.
Crime is also on Mayor Parker’s radar.
“In our first 100 days, my administration will announce specific plans to increase the number of Philadelphia police officers on our streets—with a focus on community policing citywide,” Parker said. “Our Police Commissioner will deliver plans for those crises and for crimes—like car theft, shoplifting, and illegal ATV use—that diminish the quality of life in our city.”
What you see in Kensington—homeless encampments on sidewalks; addicts shooting up on stoops in front of closed businesses; people bent over or passed out in drug intoxicated states—is the result of years of failed Democrat policies.
Since my neighborhood is near Kensington, there’s an overflow of drug (homeless) traffic not far from my house. There are also mini-tent encampments next to high end 500k houses (most populated by former New Yorkers who wanted to escape the migrant-infested Big Apple.)
The influx of drug addicted homeless into heretofore “good areas” has increased security in many businesses, making shopping in many parts of the city a bit like walking through an airport filled with TSA agents.
This Democrat spin on security—let’s call it the Orwellian Democrat Surveillance System (ODSS)– is in overkill drive, because when it comes to the Kensington drug crisis, the city is playing a frantic game of catch up at the 11th hour.
The frantic catch up involves hyperactive policing, meaning that an average Wawa or Rite Aid might employ a security guard in addition to a police officer.
The police officer is there because the security officer on duty is not permitted to apprehend shoplifters or even put their hands on anyone who breaks the law.
The guards watch as homeless addicts shoplift, in some cases picking and choosing their items as they walk through the store like shoppers. The guards are powerless to do anything.
The armed police officer can do something but only if he or she knows that the items stolen from a store exceed $499.
As The Washington Examiner reported:
“One of DA Krasner’s horrific policy changes was instructing prosecutors to seek less jail time for shoplifting. Additionally, unless the items stolen are over $500, any retail theft is to be considered only a summary offense. Such foolish policies empower criminals to act, knowing little, if any, action will be taken. And knowing that they can steal $499 worth of merchandise without consequence does little to prevent retail theft.”
As a result, businesses in the city treat paying customers like potential thieves.
It’s much like shopping in a barbed wire camp.
Complicating matters is the addition of ODSS motion-detecting robots with crane like tops fixed with flashing lights.
These “machines” blast verbal warnings to anyone walking in front of them, announcing that they are trespassing and that they have bee recorded.
Day and night, these ODSS machines, which are usually stationed outside a store, scream at shoppers —the systems are always faulty and equate normal foot traffic with trespassing—while another version of ODSS, such as the one in front of my local Wawa, announces at 10 minute intervals that the store is under surveillance “for your security.”
This kind of audio pollution is a blotch on city living—the ODSS voice in front of Wawa is loud and can be heard several blocks away—yet it doesn’t seem to bother most residents because it is accepted as another part of Democrat city reality.
Neutral observers, Republicans and Democrat partisans are all curious to see how far Mayor Parker will go in her rush to play this game of catch up after so many years of Democrat mismanagement.
The most extreme form of this, of course, could be the military equivalent of the covid lockdown—curfews, more ODSS machines with blinking lights; in short, the Philadelphia equivalent of a South American socialist regime gone beserk.
Various measures have been tried before.
In 2020, Philadelphia officials estimated the number of homeless people in the city at 300 while Philadelphia Police put that number at 650.
According to Axios Philadelphia, Homelessness in Philadelphia jumped up 5.2% in 2023 compared to 2022, with a total of 4,725 people experiencing homelessness.
Experts attribute the jump to the city’s lack of affordable housing as well as the termination of pandemic-era assistance programs.
These rapidly changing statistics also has to do with new homeless moving into the city because it’s the place to go for affordable drugs.
‘Affordable drug’ areas include the neighborhoods near the Frankford-Market El stations from Somerset to Allegheny, with Allegheny being the nerve center for drug activity.
In 2021, a large homeless encampment at Kensington’s Allegheny Avenue was cleared out by the city. Residents of the growing encampment were given a month’s notice that the city was coming in to “clean up” in 30 days.
The city’s quick action in the Allegheny case suggests that it wanted to avoid a repeat of the tent encampment standoff that occurred on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 2020, when left wing activists took control of the camp.
These left wing groups later issued ultimatums to the city and the police that they would not leave until certain demands were met.
The Parkway encampment, known as the James Dean Talib Camp, drew the ire of neighbors in the Logan Square neighborhood, many of whom complained that they felt threatened by a reported stabbing there and by aggressive panhandling.
The camp was eventually disbanded in October 2020 after a lot of ‘velvet glove’ politicking and pandering.
Disbanding an encampment without a viable housing alternative just means that you’re chasing people to another area of the city. The most glaring example of this was the city’s 2017 razing of the mammoth homeless camp known as El Campamento, which was hidden from public view behind the Conrail railroad tracks in Kensington.
The cleanup at El Campamento, however, was a disaster, with residents being dispersed throughout the city, especially to various parts of Kensington and Port Richmond where they set up multiple but smaller tent cities under bridges and overpasses.
Philadelphia’s history of ‘cleaning up’ homeless encampments began in 1993, under former Mayor Ed Rendell, when 300 people were evicted from the Market Street subway concourse.
In 1995, more than 100 homeless were evicted from Logan Square near the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, and in 1997 a large camp was disbanded near the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
In 2012, then Mayor Michael Nutter instituted a ban on handing out free food to the homeless, the idea being that catering to those who refused shelter but wanted to live on the streets where they would have easy access to drugs, was a foolish kind of pandering.
The food ban was rescinded under Mayor Kenney.
During the 2021 Allegheny encampment cleanup, evictees were given the option by outreach workers and police to agree to services (including rehab) rather than moving out but most rejected the offer.
Philadelphia reported that only 20 people from the Allegheny camp agreed to connect with social services. The rest wanted to do drugs and live on the street. (When you connect with social services, your drug intake is monitored.)
The city’s current “El Campamento” camp is Mc Pherson Square, not far from Kensington and Allegheny, and home to over 100 homeless people on most nights. This once beautiful city park, formerly a Lenape Indian hunting ground, is the site of a library donated by Andrew Carnegie in 1917.
Today, the area is known as Needle Park because the only visitors you’re likely to find there are addicts buying and selling or shooting up on benches.
All of which reminds me of the 2021 $42 million grant from the Biden administration to the city in order to fund services for the homeless.
City officials at that time stated that those funds would be used to create single room occupancy units or shared housing for 3 adults.
If $42 million won’t help a besieged city, and if multiple tent encampment removals have left little improvement, exactly how will Mayor Parker do the job she wants to do?