Nestled under a fresh blanket of heavy snow, the streets of Philadelphia’s Fairhill section were alive with activity. Children and men played football in the street while neighbors stood on the sidelines, or sidewalks, watching. Business owners shoveled their front walkways. Yet all was not fun and games for the citizens of Fairhill, as the snow could not bury the area’s deep-seated problems.
“When I came in ’86, the neighborhood was so good,” recalled Gloria Rivera of the 3200 block of North Randolph Street. “But over the past couple of years, the neighborhood is getting worse.”
According to online information posted by Congreso.net, the neighborhoods that comprise Fairhill exceed city averages in the amount of crime. In 2002, the rate of violent crime per 10,000 people was roughly 200, while the city-wide average was less than 130.
“It’s not a good place to raise kids because you can see a lot of vandalism, drugs, people shooting all the time,” stated Chariel Rivera matter-of-factly. “You’ve got a lot of bad stuff going around. It’s not a good place to live.”
One explanation for the amount of crime in the area is that over 50 percent of the population in Fairhill is under the poverty level, according to 2000 Census data. Additionally, less than 40 percent of the population is in the labor force, leaving residents to find other sources of income…some illicit.
As of 2007, three of the top ten drug corners in Philadelphia were located in Fairhill. Third and Indiana is a drug corner that was made famous by Steve Lopez’s novel titled after this corner. It’s unclear whether Third and Indiana is still a drug hot spot, but in spite of the snow on this particular day in February, two corners between Fifth and Sixth Streets on Allegheny Avenue were in full operation.
“That’s a drug corner there, and that’s a drug corner there,” Chariel said as he pointed to the respective corners. “Stuff’s going on right now,” he whispered, as he referred to several men huddled together. Whether they were huddled together because of the chill in the air or because of what they were doing is not confirmed.
Children watched ATV riders buzz around on the snowy street and a shop owner spread salt over his walkway as Chariel revealed this information.
Gloria Rivera suggested that another conceivable explanation for the amount of crime is the lack of law enforcement.
“I don’t see a lot of police around here. I think we need more police,” she concluded.
However, Rivera said there are some good things happening in Fairhill.
“We have the new hospital there,” she said, referring to the Maria de los Santos Health Center on the corner of Fifth and Allegheny. “And we have the new shopping center. It’s brand new, just opened up.”
The shopping center contains a grocery store and a beauty supply shop. Both businesses have only been open for five months.
“That’s the change I see,” Gloria said. “More businesses opening up.”