By Sharon Srodin
An average of one killing per day. It's hard to ignore that statistics. It's quoted on every news broadcast, highlighted in every newspaper article, and emphasized in every campaign speech.
I won't comment on which candidate's solution is the best or who shows the most promise. I'll leave that for the pundits. I truly believe that the police commissioner, the politicians, and the community organizations are doing their best to make our city streets safer.
What I want to know is, exactly who is included in our city? And which city streets are they making safer?
I moved to Chestnut Hill from the New Jersey suburbs eight months ago. Some may say that's not much of a stretch - trading one nice, sheltered, upper-middle class enclave for another. It's ironic, however, that I've gained an appreciation for many of the things I used to complain about while living in New Jersey, such as overzealous traffic cops. Living here, I've noticed a distinct difference in the ways laws are both obeyed and enforced. Or to put it more accurately, not obeyed and never enforced.
I was shocked the first time I stepped off a curb into a crosswalk and was almost mowed down by a car doing twice the speed limit. I now know that stop signs in Philadelphia don't mean stop. They mean, tap your breaks and slide on through. Philly residents have told me of being rear-ended when they actually stopped, so it's safer if you don't. Red lights are apparently optional if no cars are coming.
It's a state law for cars to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, yet despite the bright fluorescent signs and zebra stripes, cars whiz by, sometimes narrowly missing people who haven't completed their dash across. Sometimes not. Two pedestrians were struck by cars in Chestnut Hill in one week in March.
Not a day goes by when I don't encounter a dog off its leash on Fairmount Park's Forbidden Drive, with no owner in sight, and there have been incidents of dogs' attacking other dogs as well as people.
This is my city. These are my streets. And I don't feel safe. My chances of being killed in a drug-related shooting in South Philly are slim to none. But my chances of being run over while walking to my bank in Chestnut Hill are pretty good. Does that make my death any less tragic? So where's my police protection?
The real problem is apathy. Why should anyone obey the law if there are no consequences for breaking it?
I've voiced these opinions to longtime residents many times, and usually about halfway through my rant, a knowing smile appears on the other person's face, accompanied by a rueful sigh, "Yep, that's Philly."
They accept it, the cops accept it, so I should accept it. But I refuse to accept it. I know it's not homicide. I know gangs aren't having shootouts outside my front door. But little things like safe crosswalks, clean streets and dogs on leashes go a long way toward improving quality of life. And once quality of life is improved, citizens start caring about their communities and everyone benefits.
Perhaps the mayor and the police commissioner should consider doing what former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani did. He recognized that small problems such as litter, graffiti and X-rated businesses have a great impact on larger issues. Once people take pride in their neighborhoods, crime drops dramatically.
All of our laws should be enforced across the board in every community. If those who are charged with enforcing the laws are indifferent, then it's no surprise that citizens are indifferent to obeying them. It's unfortunate that in some parts of "our" city that indifference takes a heavy toll.