The book that has yet to be written, ‘Philadelphia Commedia,’ will not have Virgil but Walt Whitman as the reader’s guide as we travel through the city of William Penn.
Unlike Dante Alighieri’s ‘Divine Comedy,’ the Paradiso part of ‘Philadelphia Commedia’ will be put on hold until the city changes its political direction from Blue to Red, which nobody expects to happen anytime soon.
The story begins in Macy’s Department store on December 7, 2023 just as a stabbing is taking place.
We see a man named Tyron Tunnell, a distraught looking figure who has a history of retail theft and drug-related cases in the Philadelphia area.
Tunnell has entered Macy’s with the intention of shoplifting—no big surprise as Center City Macy’s, since the beginning of 2023, has experienced over 250 reports of retail theft, something that Acting Police Commissioner John M. Stanford Jr. says is, “An ongoing problem, not just for large chain stores but in terms of businesses throughout the city.”
In Philadelphia during Christmastime, going to Macy’s is a venerable tradition. Here we have a department store larger than a cathedral that features daily organ recitals, a light show with 100,000 LED lights and a massive Christmas tree you’re not likely to see anywhere else except perhaps in Rockefeller Center.
Tunnell, who has an active warrant out for his arrest in Delaware County, shoplifts a few hats and then proceeds to leave the store when he is stopped by a security guard, 27-year-old Eric Harrison, who makes him return the hats while permitting him to go free, a gesture that’s become all too familiar in big blue cities all across America:
Let the shoplifters go!
Yet Tunnell, not satisfied with his freedom, returns to the store intent on punishing the security guard because he thinks the guard showed him attitude when he made him put the hats back.
He lunges at Harrison and stabs him in the neck, then stabs another security guard who comes to Harrison’s aid. A murder under 100,000 LED lights and as Christmas music plays in the store.
Harrison is taken to the hospital where he dies; the other guard, though severely injured, manages to survive.
The crime occurred not far from where hundreds gather for the regular light shows.
Macy’s closes shop for two days; there’s also the issue of spilled blood to consider.
The killing makes the national 6:30pm news.
The Macy’s attack had the city in an uproar: DA Larry Krasner was quick to tell the press that his office will charge at higher level if someone is a prolific shoplifter offender with a pattern.
So here we have Krasner sounding like former Mayor Frank L. Rizzo. This fact indicates that even Left progressives have had enough of the lawlessness that has taken over the city.
“If it is one dollar or 50 cents, we prosecute that,” Krasner said. “We prosecute consistent with the statute, we prosecute summary offenses, at times misdemeanor offenses, at times felony offenses. Anyone who tells you we’re not prosecuting thefts of less than 55 dollars is misinformed.”
Krasner might as well be saying, “Philadelphia is not San Francisco!”
Krasner goes the extra mile when he says that his office is requesting additional funding from City Council for a task force to focus on repeat retail thieves and those who help them.
SEPTA’s 30,000 security cameras enabled police to follow Tunnell in real-time as he fled the store and discarded the switch-blade knife he used to kill Harrison. He was apprehended at the Somerset station on the Market-Frankford line.
The sad fact is that SEPTA its own world of crime.
Consider these facts:
A November 16, 2023, 6 ABC news headline read, “Man dragged down stairs, assaulted at Center City Septa Station.” The 51-year old victim was standing on the platform at 15th Street (City Hall Station) when he was attacked.
Then the coup de grace: The murder of SEPTA bus driver, Bernard Gribbin, in October 2023 when a female passenger shot him six times in the torso and throat. The 21-year-old assailant pulled a gun on Gribbin as she left the bus, killing him for no apparent reason.
Crime in Philadelphia has moved from the streets onto subway platforms.
In May 2023, Krasner said that while the city homicide rate was down from last year, he felt it necessary to issue warnings about violence on mass transit.
He was referring to groups of teen males in ski masks walking from train car to train car looking for victims.
The El ride from 13th and Market where Macy’s is located to the Somerset station takes about 20 minutes or so.
Here are some of the things a regular passenger might see while traveling this distance:
Sleeping homeless; people smoking weed and cigarettes; food and drink smashed on seats and on the floor; unruly passengers acting out (some in ski masks, despite a recent City Council ban); people holding the doors open at station stops, an action that prevents the train from moving while the train engineer makes repeated pleas to, “Please clear the doors.”
All this is happening while SEPTA’s CEO, Leslie Richards, recently got a $75,000 raise after signing a new four year contract (she makes $425,000 a year) to continue on as SEPTA’s head.
Yet what is Richards doing about improving conditions on the EL, or to convince Philadelphians that the El is safe to ride?
Especially if El passengers have to stand for the duration of their trip because the homeless have taken up all the seats, sometimes two or three seats at a time with their strollers, carts, and oversized moonscape knapsacks?
What she can do, and did, is to promote a $40 million SEPTA rebranding project that will change logos and the colors used in signage and advertising. She can also support the 2024 plan to rename bus and trolley routes to give them more “catchy” buzz names like ‘B1’ and ‘G,’ while the Broad Street subway will be renamed ‘the B,’ and the Market Frankford El, ‘the L.’
She can also cheer the plan to change font changes on SEPTA signs (never mind the stinking homeless person lying in stale urine a few feet below that sign).
After all, the design of a sign, like a tattoo, is everything. A cool look can work miracles.
Yet woke-inspired font changes, new colors and minimalist language that call to mind rock groups like the B52’s, won’t change the fact that tourists in Philadelphia never take the Market-Frankford El or the Broad Street subway.
Only a fool would put new wallpaper on a crumbling house or rehab a kitchen if the roof was falling in, or purchase dental implants or veneers if you had a serious case of gum disease.
The truth is that deteriorating conditions on “the L” have made it unreliable and often dangerous.
Stations are filthy and continue to be places where drug addicts can be seen injecting themselves. The trains themselves are run down and grimy. Marijuana smoking in stations and on trains continues to be a problem. Station announcements about delays and cancellations occur on a daily basis. Train announcements cannot even be coordinated: they often announce incorrect station stops.
It also doesn’t help that passengers are subjected to outdated recordings that masks are required, long after this policy was dropped.
What this shows is an unwillingness to get to the heart of the problem, including fixing the chronic fare dodging one sees at transit station.
Comparable, as some might say, to the Krasner-inspired policy of allowing shoplifters like Tyrone Tunnell to go free.
Tragically, if Tunnell been arrested and processed immediately for stealing those hates, Eric Harrison might still be alive.