Philadelphia’s first female mayor is declaring a public safety emergency to stop rampant crime and excessive drug addiction plaguing the city’s neighborhoods as her first act in office.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Frank Rodriguez, a recovering heroin addict who used to deal drugs in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, told Fox News. “It’s a step at least. Whether it works, how productive it is, is yet to be seen. We will find out, but at least something is being done.”
Democrat Cherelle Parker, 51, was sworn in as Philadelphia’s 100th mayor Tuesday, signing an executive order declaring a public safety emergency and vowing to immediately focus on curtailing crime in her inauguration speech. The long-time city councilwoman stuck to her campaign promises of enforcing public safety, announcing her administration would hire more cops with a focus on community policing to rebuild residents’ trust in the police and restore law and order.
Her “100-Day Action Plan” will also focus on a range of issues, including education and housing initiatives.
“I want you to know everybody is not going to be happy when we make some of these decisions,” Parker said in her speech Tuesday. “I want the world to know that I am fully committed to ending this sense of lawlessness and bringing order back to our city and a sense of lawfulness.”
Philadelphia has faced a crime surge in recent years, surpassing 500 murders two years in a row, according to the city’s police department data. Homicides dropped 22% between 2022 and 2023, but some violent crimes, including robberies and aggravated assaults with guns, remain above pre-pandemic levels, data show.
A near 30-year Philadelphia Police Department veteran, Kevin Bethel, was sworn in as the city’s police commissioner Tuesday alongside Parker, addressing plans to tackle the city’s crime crisis and ongoing drug epidemic.
Bethel, who most recently served as the chief of school safety for the School District of Philadelphia, discussed the impact of the Kensington neighborhood’s excessive public drug use on children in the area and vowed to restore “law and order humanely and with dignity.”
“It means open-air drug markets that are occurring right here in Kensington and cast a shadow over our community will be dismantled,” Bethel said Tuesday. “We will pursue those who harm and traumatize our neighborhoods across the city.”
Kensington, infamously known worldwide for its excessive public drug consumption, is among Philadelphia areas most impacted by overdose deaths, according to the city health department data.
Over 1,400 people in Philadelphia died from drug overdoses in 2022, an 11% increase since the previous record-high in 2021.
On any given day in Kensington, drug users are regularly seen openly injecting themselves with needles as residents, including children, walk by. Other addicts are passed out on the pavement, sometimes covered in gruesome wounds from an addictive animal tranquilizer called xylazine or stumbling across the busy street in a stupor.
“When we hear of Kensington … only the addicts are being thought of,” Rodriguez said. “But there’s families and children in that community that are literally hostages in their own homes. They can’t come out.”
WHAT THIS DRUG-RIDDEN COMMUNITY LOOKS LIKE ON A GLOOMY, SUMMER AFTERNOON. WATCH:
Rodriguez, who met with Parker during her campaign, said he’s optimistic and hopeful about her plans to tackle the city’s rampant drug addiction and crime, particularly in Kensington.
“I think everybody has to be held accountable, from the police, the mayor and down,” Rodriguez said. “There has to be accountability, and I definitely see this initiative as a step in the right direction.”