It’s 8:15—45 minutes before the second night of the city’s under-18 curfew—and hundreds of officers are on deck throughout the city. On the northwest sidewalk at 15th Street and JFK Boulevard, Capt. Brian Korn of the 6th District is giving a pep talk to his team of about 30 officers.
“I need to know where you are at all times,” he says as a German TV news crew covering the flash-mob crackdown shoves a camera and microphone in his face.
“People who would engage in this beha-vior … just don’t do it,” Korn says, emphasizing his last couple words. “Don’t come to Center City and misbehave. We’re not gonna stand for it.” He is used to cameras and tells a reporter to film his left side, not his right.
None of this—the extra cops on foot, bicycles and horses, and two police vans waiting for curfew violators—was the case in June, July or even last summer when similar attacks happened. Two years ago, flash mobs seemed more like a bad storm people were hoping would pass by than a “deeper issue” of social inequality. At the time, they were drowned out by the city’s severe fiscal problems. Nutter was closing recreational centers and firehouses. He even tried shutting down libraries and pools. To him, kids were just people who used up city resources.
Well, kids are still doing the same shit. The only difference is that they’re doing it during campaign season, and Nutter’s not about to let a bunch of socially inept teens ruin his re-election. Now Nutter’s got balls, or so everyone says. He whipped out the race card—telling black youth they were embarrassing their race—and then imposed a teen curfew. All to the praise of the media and Center City dwellers.
So, yeah, Nutter’s got re-election on his mind. He’s miraculously found a way to keep rec centers open longer. He’s also encouraging businesses to help him help our youth. It’s like Councilman Nutter is back, but this time he’s campaigning against the guy who wouldn’t put his foot down on several issues (read: union contracts, the BRT). And there is no limit to the price tag on safety this close to November.
Korn assigns his officers their posts for the evening. It’s close to 8:30, and a group of about 20 officers take to their bikes and comb the city’s streets.
At 8:55, the bike cops who left roll back to the corner and sweep across Love Park. Anticipation is slowly thickening. “Almost show time!” one cop shouts.
At 9:20, a black male skates northbound down 15th Street on the sidewalk.
“How about him?” asks once cop. Police take off from both sides, swarming Love Park. Cameras follow. They come back empty handed. The skateboarder was an adult.
By now, the German news crew has left, and the second night of the new two-week curfew shows dramatic changes over the course of just a day. Of the 70 curfew violations over the weekend, just 12 occurred between Saturday night and early Sunday morning, alone. By midnight Saturday, though, the station at the 6th District was packed with parents and kids. But tonight, police rounded up just a handful of Center City violations. Parents say their children are not like “the others,” but most appear disappointed in them.
A little after 10:30, Nutter stops by Love Park after a bowling party in Juniata Park he organized to keep kids off the streets. Meanwhile, reports of a stabbing of a teen girl at the party start surfacing. But Nutter’s not here to talk about the status-quo crime that plagues Philadelphia. Happy and confident, he chats with some officers and touts his program. He’s all smiles. The old Nutter, the one elected in 2008 who took two years to stand up to flash mobs, would’ve loved this guy.