The overwhelming roar of engines was clear. As my wife and I walked with our young granddaughter near the grand entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among a multitude of tourists who had made the pilgrimage to the famed “Rocky Steps,” a startled look appeared on the face of our seven-year-old.
“They are not supposed to be doing that,” she said. We were staring at the west end of the entrance where five motorcyclists were descending the 72 steps defiantly. They had managed to break the law, while unimpeded.
Later, after we had completed the challenging trek which led to the cherished edifice that houses some of the world’s greatest art and has stood as a tourist attraction for over a century, I spotted two police officers.
“Did you guys know about the cyclists who were coming down the steps over there?” I asked, pointing to the far side of the incline.
“Yes,” one said. He added that they couldn’t touch them. “You can thank our mayor for that,” he said. “We are not allowed to pursue them.”
“Oh, that’s just great,” I responded. “Nothing like it.”
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Earlier, we had passed a long line of tourists on the surprisingly spring-like Dec. 30 day. They were waiting to pose for pictures in front of the famed Rocky statue. The tribute to Sylvester Stallone’s movie character exemplified the grit and spirit of our city, and visitors were only too willing to mimic that statue with fists thrust in the air.
That image, however, would later seem to be no more than one of a paper tiger. The post-George Floyd era which may have brought about some justifiable corrections in law enforcement has also ushered in utterly lax policies that make every day life in the big city one of increased lawlessness. So is the case in Philadelphia.
Our destination city has one of its tourist magnets in the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The mile-long home of museums looks beautiful as you gaze down from the apex of the Art Museum steps.
But the view is not all what it seems. The gathering of peoples from the different cities and countries who visit can’t help but notice the warts that scar our culture. Is this any way to attract visitors?
Its time for the city leaders to give the police department the ability to apprehend and arrest those who break the law and who menace those who abide by it. Leniency will not be of benefit in the long run.
It seems as if several shootings headline the six o’clock news each night. The crime rate is staggering, and that’s become a norm for Philadelphia that must be reversed.
Just ten days earlier, Philadelphia reached the 500 mark for the number of homicides in 2022. Of course, that degree of carnage is the height of our problems.
But the quality of life factor is also out of control. The disruptions caused by noise violations, often marked by motor cyclists who travel in packs cannot be left unaddressed.
If city life with its museums, shows and restaurants is to act as an attraction and a generator of revenue, it needs to be supported by law enforcement.
On the day of our visit, as we were departing the Art Museum, we saw a display advertising the Henri Matisse exhibit. It seemed ironic and sad that neo-impressionism would be on display while a lasting impression of law enforcement leniency and mayhem that accompanies it could also be a tourist take-away.
Jeff Hurvitz (email@example.com) is a freelance writer and Philadelphia native who lives in Abington Township.