There was a popular 1960s TV show in which two policemen were shown sitting in a patrol car, and the lyrics to the opening musical theme ended with the  question: “Car 54 Where Are You?” The comedy was centered on the anomaly of unresponsive police.

These days, especially in Philadelphia, the exception has become the norm. The lapse in police response times to reported crimes has been greatly exacerbated since the George Floyd murder by a Minneapolis policeman two years ago.

A just-released survey by the Philadelphia Inquirer reported an increase in police reaction time of 20 percent in 2021 compared to 2020. On average, the wait time went from 18 to 22 minutes.

It comes at a time when the police department is understaffed as well as greatly restrained in reaction to cries for police defunding and passivity following the Floyd tragedy. This has helped make Philadelphia much more dangerous. 

That longer waiting time for police to arrive can amount to an eternity for someone who may be the victim of a crime. It contrasts with a time when the city was better equipped.

When I was ten years old, a man broke into our East Mt. Airy home while my father was hospitalized. My mother called the police, while my fourteen-year-old brother chased after the intruder.

The police arrived within a few minutes after the criminal had fled. Had my older brother not been present, the quick-acting police may well have prevented a crime that was more serious than breaking and entering. Quick response times make a difference.

According to the Philadelphia Police Department’s office of media relations, the force currently consists of 5,940 officers even though it is budgeted for 6,380. Additionally, the department has about 800 civilians, including those who staff the 911 phone lines. At its peak during the 1960s and 70s, a time of lower crime rates, the active police force totaled over 8,000.

The number of recent police academy graduates stands at 45. A decade ago, that number was nearly double. There are reported to be 440 department vacancies, while 834 are listed for early retirement in the DROP program. How can that trend be reversed?

Presently, there is a requirement that potential new hires must live in the city for one year before qualifying, but how can Philadelphia require someone to move into the city on the mere prospect of being hired? It is a huge demand and certainly discourages applicants..

In order to get the best and greatest number of prospects to step up, the residency requirement must be abandoned. Additionally, a middle ground on enforcement must be reached, one that gets criminals off the streets while minimizing potential infringements on the rights of those who are law-abiding.

Two years ago, there was an accelerated rush to judgment directed by ultra-liberal Democrats against the police in many major cities. In Minneapolis and Portland, police-free zones were established, and criminal activity was rampant. In San Francisco, criminals were given the green light when authorities said they would not apprehend someone who stole merchandise valued at under $1,000.

The overall tide against the police both nationally and in Philadelphia has resulted in a decrease in department size and effectiveness, and that must be reversed.

Here, the restraints put on police by Mayor Kenney and DA Krasner have been monumental. In the wake of the Floyd act, widespread looting led to the recent announcements of exiting by downtown stores such as Walgreens and Wawa.. Is it any surprise that such businesses want to depart the city?

The overall tide against the police both nationally and in Philadelphia has resulted in a decrease in department size and effectiveness, and that must be reversed.

In Jonah Goldberg’s 2018 book, Suicide of the West, the author stated: “Ultimately laws have to be enforced through violence or the threat of violence. Indeed the very word ‘enforce’ literally means to use force.”

Car 54’s Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne played the roles of hapless patrolmen back in the day, but the inability of police to operate from a position of strength these days is no laughing matter.

It is time to restore the security of a world we once knew. Let law enforcement do its work, and let those who wallow in the naiveté of their utopian visions be cast aside.

Jeff Hurvitz (jrhurvitz@aol.com) is a freelance writer and native Philadelphian.

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