Small businesses are under siege — crime in Philadelphia’s commercial corridors must be addressed

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As the President of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I am deeply concerned about the profound impact of crime on small businesses, particularly in neighborhood commercial corridors. Recent reports about the struggles faced by Cantina La Martina, Taquitos de Puebla, and Alma del Mar, are stark reminders of the urgent need for collective action to ensure the safety and prosperity of our local businesses.

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Jennifer I. Rodríguez Provided

The difficulties and increased cost of doing business reported by Cantina La Martina reveal a disturbing reality that many small business owners in Philadelphia grapple with daily. This James Beard award-winning restaurant in the heart of Kensington is just the type of business Philadelphia residents want to see established in their commercial corridors. However, it’s a painful truth that its success story is marred by externalities, like the relentless nuisance behavior and crime, including break-ins, thefts, and even violent incidents that our city seems unable to address.

Then there are the businesses, such as Alma del Mar, Taquitos de Puebla and countless others victimized by unending wave of robberies, assaults and shoplifting that leave business owners frustrated, scared, and in financial hardship.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our neighborhoods. They create jobs, foster a sense of community, and contribute to the cultural richness of our city. Yet, when crime becomes a constant threat, these businesses suffer immensely. It’s not just about the financial impact they incur from theft, vandalism, and increased operating costs, but the emotional toll on business owners who pour their hearts and souls into their enterprises.

According to the Urban Institute, “gun violence reduces new business growth and local job opportunities, slows home value appreciation, and can impact community members in many ways.”

A recent survey of small business owners by the Diverse Chambers Coalition of Philadelphia supports those findings. Local entrepreneurs indicated that addressing crime was their top priority for improving the business climate in Philadelphia. Half of respondents reported being impacted by crime. They have had to invest in security and reduce their hours of operation. At the same time, it has become more difficult to hire employees, and their customer count has dropped.

The struggles of Cantina La Martina, Alma del Mar and Los Taquitos de Puebla serve as a microcosm of the broader issue. When crime prevails, businesses shutter, jobs disappear, and neighborhoods lose their vitality. It’s a vicious cycle that, when left unaddressed, leads to a decline in the overall quality of life in our communities.

We needed a coordinated and sustained effort involving local authorities, business organizations, community leaders, and law enforcement. Community policing initiatives, increased patrols, improved lighting, and accessible security measures are steps in the right direction. Equally important is the engagement of local residents in crime prevention efforts, fostering a sense of shared ownership and active participation in making our commercial corridors safer.

The stories of Cantina La Martina, Alma del Mar, and Los Taquitos de Puebla should be a wake-up call for all of us. Small businesses like these are not just economic entities; they are the heartbeat of our communities. Their success and security are intertwined with the prosperity and vibrancy of our neighborhoods.

Let’s rally around small businesses in our neighborhoods, offering them the support and protection they need to prosper. Only through collective effort can we secure the future of our city’s small businesses and the communities they serve.

Jennifer Rodríguez , MCP, is the President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.