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Crime Drives Out Commerce in Philadelphia

Yes, but Philly doesn't have Gov Fatso and a great Mayor!

Crime Drives Out Commerce in Philadelphia

Wawa closes two downtown locations amid a surge in theft.

By The Editorial Board, WSJ

Oct. 20, 2022 6:37 pm ET

Center City is Philadelphia’s crown jewel, with fancy hotels, Rittenhouse Square and City Hall. But these days it isn’t safe for many commercial businesses, and the convenience store chain Wawa is closing two Center City locations amid a surge in crime.

“Despite reducing hours and investing in additional operational measures, continued safety and security challenges and business factors have made it increasingly difficult to remain open in these two locations,” a Wawa spokeswoman said in an Oct. 13 statement.

It’s a wonder only two Wawa locations are closing. Last week an employee was pepper-sprayed as five women robbed one Philadelphia store. A viral video last month showed some 100 youth ransacking another. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that thefts at Wawa’s 40 stores in Philly have “doubled in the last two years.” Police data showed 687 thefts at Wawa locations in the city between September 2021 and September 2022.

Mayor Jim Kenney insists the Wawa closures aren’t “a bad omen at all.” But in July Starbucks also closed a location in Center City, citing similar concerns. In May Manzoor Chughtai, president of the Delaware Valley Franchise Owners Association, told Philadelphia’s ABC channel that 15 to 20 other stores had shuttered because of crime.

“We are closing left and right,” Mr. Chughtai said. “Nobody wants to take over the store. Nobody wants to run the business in the city of Philadelphia. Very dangerous.”

Much of the blame goes to Philadelphia’s progressive district attorney Larry Krasner, who is notoriously lenient on property crimes. The city recorded 9,388 incidents of retail theft in 2021, but charges were filed in only 1,017 cases. Across Philadelphia, the Inquirer reports, “arrests and charges for retail theft dropped nearly 70% between 2017 and 2021, while reported incidents rose 21%.”

Mr. Krasner’s spokeswoman, Jane Roh, says there’s “no data or research connecting the DA’s individualized approach to retail theft and increases in reported thefts in Philadelphia.” Mr. Krasner’s office works to ensure that “people charged at the summary level for retail thefts” have access to food, shelter and job training “so that they do not continue to engage in criminal behavior,” she added. The DA’s office is also “working with law enforcement partners to intensify focus” on organized retail theft.

How about arresting criminals and putting them behind bars? The West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative, a business association, is now providing free security cameras and installation to stores and residents in high-crime areas. Other stores are hiring private security and closing early. Wawa’s Center City exodus is the latest evidence that businesses and people will flee when a city tolerates crime.

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