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South Philly Latino business owners speak out against the lack of police help & crime in the area.
South Philly Latino business owners speak out against the lack of police help & crime in the area. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Members of Philly Mexican small business Association met with police, public officials over public safety fears

Latino community members expressed their complaints about police response time, dispatchers hanging up, & lack of attention.

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On Wednesday, Aug. 10, members of the Philly Mexican Business Association along with members of Juntos, supported by Councilmember David Oh, met with public officials and city police to express their concerns over safety and complaints about police response times to 911 calls. 

In the meeting held at Alma del Mar in South Philly, other city officials, Councilmember Mark Squilla, police community relations officer Juan Ace Delgado, and Sgt. Brian Mundrick spoke on the concerns of the growing Latino community. 

Other restaurateurs and business owners in the area joined in for the conversation that included the hosts, Alma del Mar, along with Mezcal Cantina, Marco’s Fish, Mercado de Latinas, and Los Cuatro Soles just to name a few. 

With the rise in violence and aggression in the South Philly area around the businesses, the business owners expressed the lack of attention police officers tend to show them despite being one of the more vulnerable groups in the community. 

City police reports reveal that in 2022 through this past July, on Ninth street and the surrounding blocks where most of the businesses and restaurants are located, 36 violent crimes have taken place. The city has a high homicide rate, escalating gun violence, and armed robberies are becoming more common. These businesses and restaurants are often the ones to suffer more from those crimes.

A police department spokesperson, Jasmine Reilly said that the people in charge of staffing the 911 dispatch line are public officials and not police officers. 

“9.9 out of 10 times when someone calls 911, they’re going to [talk to] a civilian dispatcher. Sometimes people who are deaf or hard of hearing, or who speak different languages call, so we call a language line to help them communicate with us,” she was quoted as saying in the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

This came after a restaurant owner spoke about his recent experience in which his restaurant was robbed and he sustained $1,500 in damages, including broken windows. When he called the police, they hung up on him rather quickly as he does not speak English well. Even when in court to get a restraining order against the man responsible, he waited up to over five hours

just to get an interpreter. Other similar stories were also shared at the gathering.

In place of the police,  Juntos said at the meeting that they often are the ones called for help when it comes to crimes against Latino businesses and restaurants. They know the cops will not help, come, or that the dispatch line will only hang up on them. On top of that, no interpreters will be provided. 

Like in many cases of institutional failure, the community looks after their own when those in charge of serving and protecting are not. Many pointed to the pandemic and the poverty that resulted as a reason for the rise in crime in recent years. With that, many are left to wonder whether anyone is really there to help them. 

As for the meeting, the public officials present did not offer much as for solutions, but gave a few promises to the community. 

Oh said he would look into insurance companies and see what more can be done to cover the losses of businesses when they are robbed and vandalized. Additionally, he suggested that more lighting in certain areas would increase safety or at least give the perception safety. 

Squilla, whose district also encompasses part of South Philly where these businesses and restaurants are located, said he would tell the police to include the area more during its patrols.

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