A game show called Supermarket Sweep premiered in 1965. In it, contestants were given an allotted time, after which the person who collected merchandise with the highest total value would emerge as the winner. Now, the real-life version of that program has emerged, further exposing how the neutering of police has poisoned commercial establishments.
Last weekend, four thieves entered a jewelry store in the Philadelphia Mills Mall in Northeast Philadelphia. They pepper sprayed workers, smashed the display cases with a sledgehammer, and stole an abundance of jewelry.
Two days later, a business owner in the Port Richmond section of the city said three teens, using a stolen car, smashed into the garage door of his dirt bike business and engaged in what was his fifth burglary, bringing his bill for damage and stolen goods to $100,000. He placed a tractor trailer at the entrance to thwart future intruders.
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The city has seen a free-for-all atmosphere in which general shoplifting has grown to the point that stores have had to close. Across the country, high-end retail shops in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York have been ransacked. As a result, many such businesses will either have to hike prices or simply move out.
A commonality exists between Philadelphia and the other cities mentioned: police have been told to go easy on criminals. It’s a distorted outgrowth of George Floyd’s murder, committed three years ago by a sadistic but unusual policeman. Since then, the pendulum of justice has swung way too far and needs to be recalibrated.
My latest conversation with a Philadelphia police officer further underscored the dire straits in which law enforcement dwells. This veteran of the force is an imposing figure; his approximately six-foot-four frame and muscular definition tell would-be challengers, “You’d better not mess with me.” He could be the poster boy for a force that is supposed to protect law-abiding citizens.
But he is encouraged to not intervene in most instances of criminal behavior. He told me how he could be stationed outside any given WAWA store, watch a thief make several trips out with stolen merchandise in hand, and be required to remain in his patrol car. “I am getting paid to do nothing,” he said.
Supermarket Sweep was a game. What occurs on the streets today is no game.
The average city police officer makes over $90,000 per year. With over 1,000 fewer officers than needed, there are still over 6,000 police in the city. Attention efficiency experts: Do the math. This waste of budget is also a waste of human resources — men and women who signed up to protect lives and property.
Driving through the city now requires one’s eyes to be wide open, as carjacking has also become prevalent. It forces city dwellers to decide whether they need to carry a firearm for possible protection.
Decades ago, while I was a student by day and a cabdriver by night, I would always feel relieved when a cop car would ride by my vehicle, noticing my dome light was on after I left off an elderly lady who happened to live in a high-crime neighborhood. Back then, I did much to keep myself safe, but it was good to know there was a safety net present.
Where are today’s safety nets?
Supermarket Sweep was a game. What occurs on the streets today is no game. Until elections produce better leaders, the mayhem will only worsen. It’s time to declare the winner to be the law-abiding citizen and not the criminal.
Jeff Hurvitz (email@example.com) is a freelance writer and native Philadelphian.