On Wednesday, August 10, members of the Philly Mexican Business Association along with members of Juntos, supported by council member David Oh, met with city officials and police to voice concerns about safety and complaints about police response times to 911 calls.
At the meeting held in Alma del Mar in South Philadelphia, other city officials, council member Mark Squilla, police community relations officer Juan Ace Delgado and Sgt. Brian Mundrick spoke about the concerns of the growing Latino community.
Other restaurateurs and business owners in the area joined the conversation which included the hosts, Alma del Mar, as well as Mezcal Cantina, Marco’s Fish, Mercado de Latinas and Los Cuatro Soles to name a few- one.
With the increase in violence and aggression in the South Philly area around businesses, business owners have expressed the lack of attention police officers tend to show them despite being one of the most vulnerable groups in the community.
City police reports reveal that in 2022 through last July, on Ninth Street and surrounding blocks where most businesses and restaurants are located, 36 violent crimes took place. The city has a high homicide rate, an escalation in gun violence, and armed robberies are increasingly common. These businesses and restaurants are often those who suffer the most from these crimes.
A police department spokeswoman, Jasmine Reilly, said the people responsible for staffing the 911 dispatch line are public officials, not police officers.
“9.9 times out of 10, when someone calls 911, they will [talk to] a civilian dispatcher. Sometimes people who are deaf or hard of hearing, or who speak different languages, call, so we call a hotline to help them communicate with us,” she told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
It came after a restaurant owner opened up about his recent experience in which his restaurant was robbed and he suffered $1,500 in damages, including smashed windows. When he called the police, they hung up pretty quickly because he doesn’t speak English well. Even when he was in court to get a restraining order against the man responsible, he waited for over five hours
just to get an interpreter. Other similar stories were also shared at the rally.
Instead of the police, Juntos told the meeting that they are often the ones called for help when it comes to crimes against Latino businesses and restaurants. They know the cops won’t help, won’t come, or the dispatch line will just hang up. Also, no interpreter will be provided.
As in many cases of institutional failure, the community takes care of its own when those charged with serving and protecting are not. Many have cited the pandemic and resulting poverty as the reason for the increase in crime in recent years. With this, many wonder if someone is really there to help them.
As for the meeting, the public officials present did not offer much as solutions, but made some promises to the community.
Oh said he would look at insurance companies and see what more can be done to cover business losses when they are robbed and vandalized. Additionally, he suggested that more lighting in certain areas would increase security or at least give perception security.
Squilla, whose district also encompasses part of South Philly where those businesses and restaurants are located, said he would tell police to include the area more when patrolling.