Mantua: Gun Violence in “The Bottom”

A sign on a fence outside a daycare center.
Located at 40th & Poplar streets, 23 year-old Mantua resident Marquis Williams was fatally shot at the H&H Daycare Center. (Patrick McPeak)

At 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday February 11, 2014, 23 year-old Mantua resident Marquise Williams was shot dead outside of the H&H Daycare and Learning Center. Located at 40th and Poplar streets, the H&H Daycare and Learning Center serves both Mantua and the Mill Creek neighborhoods. 40 children were inside the building when gunfire erupted in the streets. Although none of the children were hurt, Williams lost his life and another unidentified man was injured in the shootout. Although the last gunshot victim of 2013 was a Mantua resident, the community feels that gun violence has declined. w=500 h=281]

An abandoned house with grafitti.
An Abandoned duplex is turned into street art on 37th & Mt. Vernon streets. Many residents believe gun crimes are coming down because residents are moving out of the neighborhood formerly known as “The Bottom.”

“Something similar to the problem here is like Pompeii, Italy,” said Joe Boyd, of Black Star Hardware on 33rd and Spring Garden streets. ‘People lived at the base of an active volcano for thousands of years but no one really talked about it much. That’s what the gun violence problem is like in Mantua.”

Boyd said that although the community does not treat gun violence like “big news,” there has been a reduction in it since police started being more present in the West Philadelphia neighborhood. Boyd also feels that since more and more students have moved into the community, university police from both Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania have contributed to lower incidents of crimes involving firearms. Some residents like having the university police patrol the area, but some aren’t so sure.

Shanice Patterson of 37th and Spring Garden streets has heard a few younger residents’ opinions on a larger presence of university police.

“A lot of people actually just call them the snitches,” Patterson said. “They don’t carry a Philly police badge. They aren’t going to do anything but call the real cops.”

Patterson also added that it made criminal activity harder due to services like Drexel Public Safety’s Escort program, although the service does not extend north of Spring Garden street.

An orange condemned sign on a house.
Philadelphia has begun the process of overhauling Mantua due to its new Promise Zone listing. Residents are skeptical of it, but the city wants to build the troubled part of West Philadelphia into something better for the community.

Although the shooting at the daycare center was the first fatal shooting of 2014 in Mantua, one of the last victims of gun violence in 2013 was also shot in Mantua. An 18 year-old man was approached and fired on by a man in front of the fire house on 34th and Haverford streets at 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. The man survived, but no suspect was ever found.

2013 had the lowest rate of gun deaths in the city in the past 50 years. Although this fact was celebrated throughout the city, people are still affected by gun violence on a daily basis. The residents of Mantua are no different.

For more location-specific crime data, the Philadelphia Police Department and web developer David Walk have created an app that shows recent crimes (allowing for a six month span) with

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