Across from Fairhill Square Park on Fifth and Lehigh streets, Katherine Garcia sat, talking to her neighbors and keeping a close eye on the jungle gym across the street. In the park was Garcia’s daughter, 12- year-old Zieralyn Brown, fawning over her puppy and talking to her friends. Within this space, Garcia said she thinks her children are safe to play. The jungle gym inside Fairhill is like a park within a park. It is a haven where Garcia said drug dealers don’t go, instead choosing to do business on the outskirts of the park.
“It is the least popular spot for drugs,” Garcia said. “They don’t do it out in the open as much as they would other places here.”
Garcia said she doesn’t let her children stray too far from the jungle gym. “Two or three weeks ago,” she recalled, “a man got stabbed.” After it happened, Garcia saw stampede of children running from one end of the park toward the other.
Despite this, Garcia said she still feels her children are safer here than anywhere else because of the community she lives in. She commended her neighbors’ reaction to the stabbing. “Everyone in the community came to help this guy.”
From the sidewalk outside of their houses Garcia and her neighbors watch vigilantly. All over Fairhill people sit outside on their steps or folding chairs, watching their kids play and talking to one another. “It wasn’t like this when I was growing up,” Garcia said, “everything was so convenient.”
Having more eyes on the park helps discourage crime because there is a higher probability it will be reported to authorities. The park holds events intended for the children in the community. Organizations like Let’s Read, Let’s Move, Philadelphia and The Lighthouse sponsor events at Fairhill Square.
As for Zieralyn Brown and her friends, they’ll continue to go to Fairhill Square to play after school. The only thing the 12-year-old girl said she’d change about the park would be to build a basketball court in it, surrounded by bright lights that stay on all night.
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