A heavy police presence was seen in Center City Thursday, a day after hundreds of teens gathered in Dilworth Park and altercations broke out.
But just 24 hours later, Dilworth Park and 15th Street around the City Hall SEPTA station were peaceful – perhaps due to the approximately 50 police officers on foot in the area as of 3:30 p.m.
Capt. Ray Convery of the 9th District said police presence was beefed up to ten times the normal detail to prevent any further disturbances.
“We do have some issues once in a while, its not every day, but maybe once in a week, we’ll have one of the area high schools mad at another area high school,” Convery said. “Wednesday was an aberration. Students from three different schools were planning to fight. We had 600 young adults here.”
Six teens, two girls and four boys, were reportedlyarrested on Wednesday afternoon from various flare-upsof violence.
It was also the day that temperatures hit 80 degrees, leading tourists and pedestrians enjoying the weather to fill the streets.
Police officials on-scene described it as a “perfect storm” and said students from rival schools around the city hadused social media to plan to meet near City Hall that afternoon to fight.
Convery said he is working with schools and SEPTA to reduce the hours of student SEPTA passes, which currently function daily until 7 p.m., giving youths ample time to visit Center City after school before heading home.
“A lot of the kids are just down here to spend the afternoon, which we don’t mind,” he said. “When they come down here to disrupt, that’s when we’re not going to allow it.”
Convery said the future police presence in the area will vary depending on whether disturbances in the area continue.
People in the area Thursday said the problems have various causes.
“A lot of these kids have nothing to do after school, and you just don’t know what they’re going to do – it’s a scary thought,” said Wendy, who declined to give her last name due to concerns of reprisal, before getting into the SEPTA City Hall station to travel home from work.
“These kids are off the hook,” said Joseph Mitchell, 49, while sitting in Dilworth Park preparing to go to work on Thursday. “They need to see the cops’ presence. If they weren’t here, they’d probably be fighting right now.”
Mike Grant, a.k.a Philly Jesus, was stationed by the LOVE sign in Dilworth Park and said he saw the fight Wednesday.
“I heard a bunch of screams, I looked toward City Hall, there were tons of kids. I tried to go over to get them to think about Jesus,” Philly Jesus said. “Cops had their night sticks out, they were screaming at kids to get out.”
“The weather, it stirs up people coming out … but it’s nothing new. When I was growing up as a teenager, it was worse,” he said.
Some office buildings in the area notified their tenants that they would be beefing up office security in the afternoons this spring and that police were coordinating larger patrols in the area from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. weekdays this spring.