I have lived in Center City Philadelphia for nearly twenty years. When searching for a home in 2004, my fiancé (now wife) and I had only one thing in mind: finding the safest neighborhood in which to start a family. We discovered that Logan Square in Center City had everything we needed. It was close to restaurants, public transportation, museums, and parks, and, most importantly, it was considered one of the safest communities in the city.
When vetting Logan Square, we walked down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, in awe of its beauty. We walked the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and took a photo with Rocky. We passed The Thinker at the Rodin Museum. We admired the beauty of the Swann Fountain and stood in Love Park and looked at the magnificence of Philadelphia’s City Hall. After our walk, we stopped for a beer and a roast beef and cheese at the famous Cherry Street Tavern. Even though we have lived in the Philly area all our lives, we never truly appreciated or realized the beauty of Logan Square. We fell in love with this little corner of Philadelphia that some call Logan Square Village. The neighborhood had it all, but most importantly, it would be a safe place to raise our children.
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When we purchased our house in 2004, having children was our dream. In 2007, that dream came true with the birth of our daughter, and in 2009, we were blessed with our second daughter. We happily raised our girls in Center City and felt completely safe and at ease. Our favorite spot was a little pocket park called Coxe Park. When the girls were ten and eleven, still young enough to enjoy the park, they were free to walk the one and a half blocks by themselves. We were grateful for, and blessed by, the life we built.
Things changed in 2018, when Larry Krasner took office as the city’s district attorney. Since then, our community has seen a spike in homelessness and lived through the encampment at Von Colln Playground. Retail thefts became commonplace. We pass discarded needles on our sidewalks. Cars are broken into every single night. Illegal ATVs and dirt bikes ride through our streets, ignoring speed limits, stop signs, and red lights. Our safe community was turning in a different direction, but at least we were safe from the violence and murder that plagued the rest of Philadelphia, or so we thought.
But on Dec. 14, 2021, that violence found our little corner of Philly.
A friend of mine was driving around Eakins Oval in front of the Art Museum. A pack of ATVs and dirt bikes surrounded his vehicle. As he cautiously navigated his SUV around the circle, his car and an illegal dirt bike lightly bumped. The event seemed innocuous enough. My friend did not fear for his life. After all, he was in Logan Square.
But before my friend knew it, he was being chased by the pack of illegal bikes. He drove away in fear and was able to reach 22nd and Spring Garden Streets unscathed. At that moment, however, a man on one of the dirt bikes pulled out a gun. My friend thought he was just flashing the gun in an attempt to scare him. Then, the man began shooting. My friend’s car was peppered with bullets. One went through the driver side window, with shards of glass cutting his face and lodged in the right bracket of the passenger side airbag
This was not an attempt to scare. This was an attempt to murder.
Thankfully, my friend was not injured physically. The emotional toll has had lingering effects, but he is alive, grateful for the grace of God to still be with us.
Illegal ATVs and dirt bikes have been dubbed a minor nuisance by our elected officials, but they have damaged the quality of life for citizens all over the city. On that day in December, they almost became deadly. A similar incident occurred on March 9, 2021, when a man on an ATV pulled a gun on another man on Broad Street because his illegal vehicle was accidentally bumped by the man’s car.
The illegal ATV and dirt bike issue is complex and not easily solved. Police fear that chasing illegal vehicles could cause accidents and harm pedestrians. Although there are no easy solutions to this problem, there are certainly bad ideas. Elected officials are talking about rewarding this illegal behavior by building a park for illegal ATVs and dirt bikes. The necessity to illegally ride these ATVs and dirt bikes through the streets to get to this proposed park seems to have escaped the minds of officials.
Philadelphia has seen an uptick in all levels of crime, especially murder. The city saw 562 homicides in 2021, breaking the record of 500 set in 1990.
My daughters are now thirteen and fourteen. I do not even let them walk to our local grocery store unless they are together or with me or my wife. Our safe village has become lawless. We are not alone: this is happening all over Philadelphia. DA Krasner has proven that he will not prosecute low-level drug trafficking, theft, vandalism, prostitution, or even mugging. Consequently, police hands are tied because criminals know that even if they are arrested for low-level crime, there will be no consequence of prosecution. As a result, Philadelphia has seen an uptick in all levels of crime, especially murder. The city saw 562 homicides in 2021, breaking the record of 500 set in 1990.
We have all heard of trickle-down economics. Larry Krasner’s policies have created trickle-up criminality. When low-level crime is not prosecuted, it creates a ripple effect that increases crime at every level. Our DA does not understand that criminal justice reform does not, and should not, exclude prosecuting illegal behavior.
Luckily for my friend, the criminal who shot him missed, or he would have been number 563.
Drew Murray is a Regional Sales Manager for O’Brien Business Systems, Inc. and lives in the Logan Square neighborhood in Center City Philadelphia. He is a husband and father of two daughters. He is the Republican leader of the 15th Ward. He is Chairman of the Philadelphia Crosstown Coalition and President of the Friends of Coxe Park. He also serves on the boards/councils of Center City District, Logan Square Neighborhood Association and the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul.