First came a shooting last Sunday. The same day, the former mayor was robbed. On Monday and Tuesday, there were more shootings. On Wednesday, a car chase ended in a midday gunfight between a robbery suspect and police. Five gun crimes occurred in a 36-hour period.
But it wasn't until the wee hours of Friday morning, when someone fired shots into a car on the eve of a block party on Edgehill Road, near a cemetery and elementary school, that officials in beleaguered Darby decided that enough was enough.
"That block alone has at least 100 children by itself," said Helen Thomas, mayor of the suburban borough near the border of Southwest Philadelphia. "I was totally upset. What if they had had the block party - and the person came back ... and wanted to shoot whoever it was he was looking for?"
The block party was canceled, the mayor met with police chief Robert Smythe, the chief reached out to county law enforcement agencies, and by 7 p.m. Friday, Darby had imposed a state of emergency giving police expanded powers to pull people off the streets.
Reinforcements from the county and nearby towns temporarily are helping Darby's eight full-time police officers and additional part-timers.
A beefed-up team of law enforcement officers swept across the 11,000-person-strong borough Friday night and took 15 people into at least temporary custody, the mayor said Saturday.
Authorities were using powers which, under the 10-day state of emergency, allow officers to demand identification and stop and frisk people of any age who are outdoors or in a public place between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., said Thomas.
"I just realized there was something that we had to do," she said, "and we had to do it right now."
The police chief, Smythe, did not return a call seeking comment on Saturday.
The crime crackdown comes as Smythe and his department have fallen under intense scrutiny.
The Delaware County District Attorney's Office earlier this year launched an inquiry into allegations that Smythe fought with an officer from nearby Colwyn as the two responded to a call for assistance near the border.
And this past week, after burglars tried to rob her home on Sunday, former mayor Paula Brown, a longtime adversary of the chief's, resorted to posting crime information on her Facebook page as she heard it come across her police scanner at home.
One of her first posts, at 11:24 p.m. on Tuesday, drew 36 comments: Darby residents: Please stay away from 3rd and Main right now...subject barricaded in a house with guns.
On Thursday, Brown called for the hiring of more full-time police: Two shootings in less than 24 hours. I am DEMANDING that these so called elected officials hire 15 FULL TIME officers that will put us back up to the national standard formula that requires that amount of full time officers for our population and crime rate. STOP PLAYING WITH OUR LIVES HERE!!!
"To me," the former mayor said in an interview Saturday, "I don't think it was a state of emergency that needed to be declared; I think they need to hire fulltime police officers."
The current mayor said she'd love to convert at least two of the department's part-time officers into full-timers in the next month or so. But finding the money is another story. Darby is home to many immigrants and renters - hardly the kind of higher-income residents who could absorb yet another tax hike, for instance, she noted.
In a difficult economy where municipalities are scavenging to make up for lost federal and state funds, Darby residents have been hit with school- and county-tax increases, Thomas said. Another tax hike, to hire more police, would be a triple whammy that the small borough's hard-pressed residents would have trouble with, she said.
"We should have raised taxes - that's what we should have done," the mayor said, "but we didn't do it because Darby Borough has it hard enough as it is."