In my previous piece here, I covered the open-air drug market and camped out drug addicts in Kensington. Sadly, Kensington is not the only neighborhood blighted by drug dealers and addicts in Philadelphia.

A woman who works at Broad and McKean in South Philadelphia complained to me about the block between McKean and Snyder on Broad Street.

“It’s a disgrace,” she said. “It’s not safe to walk on Philadelphia’s main street down here. There are junkies staggering about, aggressive homeless beggars, and God knows what else. 

“Where are the cops and the city’s politicians? Why isn’t anyone cleaning up this once vibrant area?”

I know how she feels. Broad and Snyder is an eyesore now, but it was once a fine place to shop, eat and socialize. While growing up in South Philly in the 1960s, Broad and Snyder was a major social and shopping area. In addition to the popular stores on the east side of the block-long strip, there was the Broadway movie theater on the west corner that we all frequented back then. Many a Saturday back in the day, we ventured to Broad and Snyder to shop, eat and watch movies.  

I attended South Philadelphia High School (known as Southern) at Broad and Synder in the late 1960s. Before school, we had coffee and breakfast at the Dugout luncheonette on Snyder Avenue just off Broad Street, and we ate lunch at one of the many eateries on the Broad and Snyder strip. After school, we hung around Broad and Snyder. We thought Broad and Snyder was a major South Philly hub.

After leaving the Navy in the early 1970s, my first apartment was on Snyder Avenue just off Broad Street. It was a good place to live then, and there are still many good residents there who are disgusted and saddened by Broad and Snyder’s dilapidation. 

Many residents across South Philadelphia, an area known for close-knit neighborhoods, and strong familial and residential traditions, are outraged by the slovenly and crime-ridden conditions on Broad and Snyder.    

Gary Capuano, a retired Philadelphia police sergeant who is writing a memoir of his time as a police officer, laments the current conditions there.      

“I was born and raised in South Philadelphia and still reside here. The area of Broad and Snyder brings back childhood memories of my mother and I spending many a day out together,” Capuano said. “Mom and I would go shopping and then grab lunch. We would make stops at PSFS, LaBelle’s, Sun Rays, Dials, Thom McAn, and Woolworth’s, pretty much doing the whole strip.”

Capuano also recalls the stands along the curbside owned and operated by Asian merchants who sold items at a discounted rate on the 2000 block of South Broad Street. 

“For lunch, mom and I would sit at a booth inside Woolworth’s or walk across the street to Gino’s. This was back in the 70’s when it was safe to walk there.

“Try walking around there today. You are taking your life in your hands. Broad and Snyder has become Skid Row over the last few years. It’s now fraught with homeless, narcotic users/abusers and shady characters. At times, it looks like a scene from ‘Night of the Living Dead.’ I don’t ever recall seeing a boarded-up business as a child on Broad Street, but now I do!” 

Capuano noted that today there are all kinds of street vendors popping up and setting up shop, and they are free to peddle their goods.

“If memory serves me correctly, this area is designated to be vendor-free and anyone who sets up a table or stand is subject to a fine by Licenses and Inspection.”

Crime is also rampant, Capuano noted. The former police sergeant spoke of a homicide incident on a SEPTA bus and a rape that occurred by point of gun on the subway platform, as well as a stabbing that resulted in murder this past November. 

“Combine the homeless issue along with the narcotic users, their dealers and lack of enforcement, Broad and Snyder is dangerous,” Capuano said. “Now, because of the lack of police manpower, resources and accountability of our criminals, it’s a recipe for disaster. 

“How many more incidents is it going to take before some type of action is taken? How many more people need to lose their lives? This can be said as well for anywhere in the city. There are no ‘safe’ neighborhoods anymore.” 

Because of rampant crime and drug areas, Capuano said, people will begin to move, and businesses will begin to shutter. He suggested that one should look at Center City, which has lost Wawa, Target, Starbucks, H&M, Rite Aid, Marshall’s, Walgreens, and the Gap in recent years.  

Capuano and many others believe it is time to clean up the Broad and Snyder area and the other neighborhoods afflicted with open-air drug markets and drug addicts. 

Paul Davis, a Philadelphia writer and frequent contributor to Broad + Liberty, also contributes to Counterterrorism magazine and writes the “On Crime” column for the Washington Times. He can be reached at 

2 thoughts on “Paul Davis: South Philly’s drug addicts, aggressive homeless and assorted shady characters”

  1. The City has been death throes for a number of years with brief respites. Mayors Rendell and Steet being the last. The Kenney administration was a disaster for the remaining middle class there. I have high hopes for the administration of Mayor Parker and so far it seems she’s moving in a direction that may stem the tide. I wish her eight successful years.

    I was born and raised in Phila. I left in the mid 70’s and never looked back. It’s dirty, crime ridden, highly taxed, full of city workers with a corrupt government and lousy public schools! Outside of that I’m sure its great!
    As a kid I walked the same Kensington Ave mentioned at the beginning of the article with my folks shopping. At Christmas Kensington Ave was shoulder to shoulder with shoppers. All sections of the city had similar shopping districts. They are all gone!
    I rarely come to Philadelphia – I visit only when I really need to.
    I will take my business and my entertainment dollars where it is valued and appreciated!
    Cities today are like junkies – they need to hit rock bottom. And only when enough voters experience this will they begin to vote accordingly.

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