Is violence escalating in Old City?

Philadelphia’s Old City is known for its raucous nightlife, but lately, it seems that blood has been flowing just as freely as booze.

Saturday morning’s stabbing, sparked by a closing time argument in front of after hours club Recess, is the second violent incident within a two-block radius in as many months. In mid-January, Temple grad Kevin Kless, 23, was also wounded after an area altercation as the bars let out, but his injuries proved fatal.

Residents and regulars had mixed feelings on the direction of the neighborhood Sunday afternoon. “I would say, yeah, it is getting more violent,” said Chuck Smith, who has worked in the area for 23 years and said he has recently seen a proliferation of rowdy bars. “Because of all the nightclubs and stuff they have down here … It’s a whole lot to Old City that’s crazy, as far as the people they attract.”

Still, many taking in the sights Sunday were blissfully unaware of the recent incidents. “I get very upset to hear it because I live in Center City,” Barbara Harris said.

Rife with historical attractions, Old City is largely populated by wandering groups of tourists during the day. When the sun goes down, an entirely different crowd comes out, more interested in taking shots than tours. There are at least 80 bars and clubs packed into the less than one-half square mile area, according to the Old City District website.

“It’s still a beautiful place for me to work at down here, it’s just certain times of night things get out of control,” Smith said.

Others felt that there wasn’t necessarily an escalation in crime, but that violent incidents in such an idyllic area receive more attention from police, press and citizens. “This stuff happens everywhere that you go – North Philly is a lot worse,” Francois Shahade said. “All these people at night going out to clubs are doing dumb stuff, but I think, wherever you go, if you’re among a drunk crowd, things will happen.”

“I don’t think it’s getting more violent, there’s just too many of these bars,” Harris echoed. But when asked if she would feel comfortable walking in Old City at night, she said, “Only with my pepper spray in hand – I never go without it.”



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