Why Is Philly Looking To Chicago For Ways To Fight Crime?

AP Photo/Teresa Crawford

There’s no doubt that Philadelphia’s public officials could use some help when it comes to combatting the city’s violent crime rate, but looking to Chicago for answers is kind of like asking Paula Deen for advice on healthy eating. You’ll probably get a response, but it’s not likely to be of much use.

Yet Philadelphia is borrowing a page from the Windy City’s failing public safety strategy; stationing (and paying) community members to stand watch as kids make their way to and from school.

Based on a Chicago program, Philadelphia’s planwill start at four high schools: Lincoln, Motivation, Sayre and Roxborough, and expand to others. The “Safe Path” program will pay trusted community members and equip them with radios and bright, reflective vests to serve as eyes and ears — not to take physical action against anyone armed with a gun.Kevin Bethel, the district’s chief of school safety, said he wants Safe Path operational before the end of the school year.

“I can no longer sit back and wait for volunteers while I see in some of our corridors the issues we’re having,” Bethel said. Details on what the groups will be paid and how they can apply will be shared soon,he said.

So how does this work in practice? Well, here’s an incident from Chicago that played out on Wednesday afternoon:

Shots were fired outside a Wicker Park elementary school shortly after dismissal Tuesday afternoon, but no one was hit, police said.

The incident occurred outside Jose de Diego Community Academy, 1313 N. Claremont Ave., according to witnesses.

The Chicago Fire Department arrived on the scene around 3:46 p.m., spokesman Larry Langford said. The call came in as a shooting, but the only victim on the scene was a 22-year-old man who had apparently been hit with a baseball bat. He refused medical treatment.

A safe passage worker for the school said two men were fighting and a few gunshots were fired, but the men fled before police arrived on the scene.

Chicago’s Safe Passage program has been in place for several years now, but there’s not a lot of evidence showing that it’s been effective at preventing acts of violence along the common routes kids walk to school. Here are a few headlines documenting some pretty high profile failures:

Safe Passage Worker Shot on West Side

Man Shot and Killed on Safe Passage Route

15-Year Old Boy in School Uniform Shot Blocks From Safe Passage Route

Safe Passage Worker Arrested for Drug Possession

Safe Passage Worker Shot Teen Girl In Chest, Prosecutors Say

On the other hand, a 2019 study claimed to have found that violent crime dropped by 20% along Safe Passage routes two years after they were established, though it appears that violent crimes were also declining in areas that weren’t Safe Passage routes during the same time period.

So, the evidence of the program’s effectiveness is awfully slim, but since homicides in Philadelphia are going to hit an all time high this year, local officials have to do something, and putting unarmed monitors on street corners to stand watch not only allows school administrators to proclaim they’re protecting kids but also gives them the chance to spread some cash around by paying the Safe Passage workers.

I’ll be absolutely delighted if I’m proven wrong, but I don’t expect that Philly’s adoption of the Safe Passage program is going to make much of a difference. And given the fact that the school district’s director of public safety says he hopes to have a plan in place for four high schools by the end of the school year seven months from now, it honestly sounds like officials don’t have high expectations. It seems to me that if they really thought this program was a game changer, they’d be moving a lot faster to put it in place.

The city’s best chance to stem the violence will come on Tuesday, when voters will decide the city’s District Attorney’s race. Unfortunately incumbent D.A. Larry Krasner, a far-Left social justice warrior who was elected to his first term thanks to hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending by George Soros, is expected to cruise to re-election despite the fact that shootings and homicides have soared while felony prosecutions have declined under his watch. If parents really want to keep their kids safe their best bet would be get their carry license and walk their kids to school themselves, but a close second would be voting Krasner out of office. Either or both would be far more effective relying on unarmed volunteers to stand guard as their children travel to and from school.