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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

OPINION:

To the voters of San Francisco on behalf of the small businesses in Philadelphia, I say: We salute you. You did it. You literally helped to fire your progressive district attorney. We are impressed. And we’re jealous.

This month, Philadelphia suffered a mass shooting incident that left three dead and 11 injured. The incident happened on South Street in Center City, a popular place for both tourists and residents that enjoy reveling at the district’s many bars and restaurants until the wee hours of the morning. The many small businesses who make their livelihoods in the area are furious.


“I think I want to move,” Ivy Cheng, the owner of a fashion boutique near where the shooting took place told the Philadelphia Business Journal. Ms. Cheng had begun closing her store at 7 p.m. on weekends last year for “safety reasons.” She visited her store the morning after the shooting to find blood on her front sidewalk. But she’s not alone in her concerns, of course. Other business owners are sharing the same fears.

“Two Fridays ago, we had 100 people in the middle of this intersection,” the owner of a local bar told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The element that comes around, they drive around the cops in what is supposed to be an area closed to traffic, and so they come to believe nobody’s going to stop them.”

The city’s feckless Mayor Jim Kenney (who lives in constant fear of inflaming the vocal left-wing) blames the shootings on the gun industry and the Republicans who won’t pass legislation limiting firearms. Of course, he does. And why not? It’s the best excuse to use in the wake of the Uvalde shootings. And yes, there are too many guns on our streets and something needs to be done.

But Philadelphia’s problems go way beyond the availability of guns. Philadelphia — which has seen a dramatic spike in homicides and other crimes, particularly property crimes against businesses over the past few years — is suffering from a leadership problem. Mr. Kenney is known to be weak and counting the days until his term ends so he can peacefully retire from a job he never really wanted in the first place. Meantime, our progressive District Attorney Larry Krasner continues to push the kinds of policies that are making it much, much harder for police to do their job.

An analysis by the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit that defends the law enforcement profession, found Mr. Krasner is “failing miserably” at prosecuting felony offenses. Compared to his predecessor’s average conviction rates, Mr. Krasner dropped or lost 26% more of all felony cases. More robbery cases (a 14% increase) and auto theft cases (a 37% increase) were dropped or lost. In drug sales (not possession) cases, Mr. Krasner dismisses or loses 55% of cases compared to the 34% rate of his predecessor — a 65% increase. In Mr. Krasner’s first two years, he dropped or lost 47% of all illegal firearms cases — a 42% higher rate than the last D.A. while getting convictions in 21% fewer cases. 

Morale at Philadelphia’s police department is at an all-time low. And can you blame them after they were so vilified by the “woke” mob after the 2020 protests? There are now more than 400 vacancies created by both retiring officers and other law enforcement officials who have simply quit rather than do this thankless job protecting ignorant people (“It’s clear and simple to me that cops are just not healthy for our communities,” an organizer from PHL Pride Collective astonishingly told Axios because I guess gay people don’t need police protection when they find themselves attacked?). Many of the procedures they’ve used for arresting offenders — like stop and frisk — have been taken away because they’re dubiously considered racist. And why risk your life to arrest someone when they’ll likely be back out on the streets in a day under Mr. Krasner’s regime?

All the little things that contribute to the exploding crime rates in progressive-led cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco are evident everywhere. The rise of mentally ill and dangerous homeless on the streets, the graffiti left unchecked on buildings and the shrugging of shoulders as civilians are assaulted and our stores are robbed. It’s open season here thanks to the district attorney’s office.

All of this is now affecting my city’s retailers and restaurants. It is driving tourists and suburban visitors away. It will ultimately have an impact on real estate prices and motivate potential renters and buyers to look elsewhere. It makes it harder for professional and other firms to do business in the city because they can’t attract the talent that they need. It increases property insurance and security costs for all businesses.

And yet reducing crime, even in a city like Philadelphia, is not that difficult. It’s been done in the past (see: Giuliani, Rudolph — mayor of New York, 1994). You train the police better and limit their unions from keeping the bad apples on the payroll. You increase their budget significantly more than Mr. Kenney (Philly’s police department’s small budget increase lagged behind the city’s overall spending rise and falls well short of what is needed) and then you let them do their job even if it means questioning and leaning on any sketchy people, regardless of the color of their skin.

No, this isn’t racist. It’s to protect all the citizens in the city, including North and West Philadelphia, who are more than 90% Black and 99.9% law-abiding, because they would prefer to live in a nonviolent neighborhood where their children can safely go to school and businesses can start and thrive instead of leave or hide. 

And — most importantly — we should have a district attorney that prosecutes all offenses so that the police know someone’s got their back.

The small business owners in San Francisco helped to terminate their weak district attorney. Small businesses in Philly would be much better off if we did the same to ours.

• Gene Marks is a CPA and owner of The Marks Group, a technology and financial management consulting firm specializing in small- and medium-sized companies.


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