As a long time resident of West Philadelphia, and someone who works in a firm located on Penn property, I would like to express my outrage at the remarks supposedly made by Thomas Seamon in the November 3 Inquirer: "The crime rate goes up significantly, really just about every block. And then as you move past our patrol area, the crime rate... goes up astronomically."
I question his statistics and would appreciate some clarification; but more important, I think that his remarks are a slap in the face of many homeowners and community groups that are working hard to make this area a neighborhood. There seems to be a "them against us" attitude toward this neighborhood.
It is my view that the area from 40th Street to 43rd Street is a problem area, but this is because of the transient nature of the area (and I don't mean that pejoratively; it's the natural state of affairs for college students). No one knows who their neighbors are from one year to another nor who owns what building. Within that area and as you go beyond it, I think you would find many proud homeowners struggling to have a sense of neighborhood in the mega-presence of the University of Pennsylvania.
I do think that the University Real Estate office needs to re-group and re-assess its role in the neighborhood. The current penchant for strip malls, chains, and mega-stores creates a mall environment and not a neighborhood. Support of small business and diversity are what we need to help a neighborhood survive. More businesses create more foot traffic and less criminal behavior. This is probably why so many students are relocating east of the Schuylkill because there is more an atmosphere of neighborhood and less of a barren suburban mall.
--Vincent Whittacre, South 48th Street Resident
Response to Mr. Whittacre
Four Public Safety Division staff members, including myself, met for over two hours with the Inquirer reporter who authored the November 3rd article. During that long interview we discussed a wide range of topics about crime and safety in Philadelphia. The reporter chose to take a few sound bites out of context and use it for his own ends.
The only point Public Safety was trying to make is that the 18th Police District taken as a whole is one of the busiest police districts in Philadelphia. Some areas within its confines are wonderful neighborhoods with low crime rates while other areas are dangerous as reflected by high violent crime rates. This is the larger context within which the Penn Police attempt to provide service and safety, not only to Penn affiliates, but to everyone in Philadelphia.
-- Thomas M. Seamon, Managing Director Division of Public Safety
Volume 43 Number 13
November 19/26, 1996
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