Numerous questions about Temple’s relationship with the North Philadelphia community have been raised in the aftermath of a string of attacks on Temple students that occurred on March 21, in which four students reported being attacked by a group of youths. One student reported being hit in the face with a brick.
The attacks, which occurred within five blocks of one another during the course of 30 minutes, were allegedly carried out by a group of five juveniles from West and Northwest Philadelphia, in an area beyond Temple Police’s typical patrol zone.
Tensions are undoubtedly high between the Temple and North Philadelphia communities.
In response to the attacks, James Creedon, senior vice president for construction, facilities and operations, issued an email on March 24 warning students to “not engage in conversations with strangers.”
This directly contradicts the university’s “Good Neighbor Initiative,” which encourages students to foster better relationships with their residential neighbors. While Creedon’s comment was made with the intent to keep students safe, it further demonstrates the divide between students and the people who live in the area surrounding Main Campus.
The attacks have inspired some students to voice concern about Temple Police’s patrol area, including a petition to expand the patrol zones north of Susquehannah Avenue and west of 16th Street. As of Monday evening, the petition boasts 2,214 supporters.
Temple’s primary patrol zone’s boundaries are Susquehanna Avenue to the north, Jefferson Street to the south, Ninth Street to the east and 16th Street to the west. There is a separate response area where Temple Police may respond to “priority calls” only, extending to Dauphin Street to the north, Master Street to the south, Eighth Street to the east and 17th Street to the west.
According to state law, campus police are allowed to serve on university grounds owned, or within 500 yards of a property owned, controlled, leased or managed by a given college or university. This does not necessarily require cops to patrol the entirety of those 500 yards.
However, it’s hard to determine where Temple’s jurisdiction ends and Philadelphia Police’s begins. While an increased patrol presence may be necessary as the amount of students living near Main Campus increases, students that choose to move into areas multiple blocks from Main Campus need to know that safety can never be guaranteed.
Administrators estimate that between 7,000 to 10,000 students have moved into the areas surrounding Main Campus in the past decade.
While Temple police’s patrol zone is listed on the agency’s website, Temple can work to correct the overblown sense of security that many students feel by making sure the patrol map is widely distributed across campus. A student moving into an Owl-heavy block near the intersection of 18th and Berks Streets must be aware that he or she will not live under the direct eye of Temple Police.
However, it is also important to note that police do not believe these attacks were carried out by North Philadelphia residents. While gentrification has been a hot-button issue among students in the wake of these attacks, the beatings were allegedly not carried out by local residents in the first place. The group is believed to have left North Philadelphia on a SEPTA bus following the attacks.
Short of building a moat around Main Campus, there will never be complete safety at a school situated in the middle of city as large and diverse as Philadelphia.