Philadelphia Receives Grant to Resolve Rape Kit Backlog

Map of grant recipients from Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Map of grant recipients from Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Solid colors reflect grants that impact an entire state. | Courtesy New York County District Attorney’s Office.

Yesterday Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced that 32 jurisdictions in 20 states — including the City of Philadelphia — would receive part of a total $38 million in grant money from his office to tackle a backlog of unprocessed rape kits. According to a detailed breakdown of the awards, Philadelphia will receive $419,788 to address a backlog of 600 untested rape kits. (The Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner, with a backlog of 400 kits, was the only other jurisdiction in Pennsylvania to receive funding, in the amount of $254,437.) The largest award, almost $2 million, went to the state of Georgia, which has a backlog of more than 3,000 untested kits.

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Video: Cayman Naib’s Father Speaks About Dangers of Gun Ownership


“I want to do 14 good things,” says Farid Naib, “one for every year of Cayman’s life.” This is how the father of Cayman Naib — the 13-year-old Shipley student who died by suicide in March — explains his participation in a new Brady Campaign to Prevent Violence video about the dangers of keeping a gun in the house.

Farid’s gun had been purchased 30 years prior to Cayman’s death “for personal protection.” When his children were born he bought a trigger lock for the gun, but didn’t throw the firearm away, which he now regrets. In fact, the trigger lock was still in place when Cayman used the gun to end his life; it did not prevent the gun from firing. Farid says he’d forgotten about the gun, and had no idea that Cayman knew about it.

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Officer Killed in Traffic Accident ID’d, Suspect Charged

Officer Lamar Poole Sr., left, and Louis Vogwill, right. Courtesy Philadelphia Police Department.

Officer Lamar Poole Sr., left, and Louis Vogwill, right. Courtesy Philadelphia Police Department.

Lamar Poole Sr., 42, had worked for the Philadelphia Police Department for 18 years, and was most recently assigned to the 12th District. The married father of seven was off-duty on Sunday afternoon, riding his Honda motorcycle in Northeast Philly, when he was hit by a man in a Toyota Corolla. Read more »

New Details, Composite Released in Graffiti Pier Assault

A composite released by SVU. Courtesy Philadelphia Police Department.

A composite released by SVU. Courtesy Philadelphia Police Department.

Philadelphia’s Special Victims Unit has released a composite sketch of the alleged perpetrator in the robbery and sexual assault that took place last week at Graffiti Pier. On Sunday, August 23rd, two men and one woman in their 20s were visiting the unsanctioned street-art museum when they encountered a man in his early 30s who they didn’t know. He led them at gunpoint to a wooded area and took all their valuables. An earlier bulletin from SVU noted that one of the victims had been sexually assaulted, but the new bulletin suggests that the suspect sexually assaulted all three. We also now know that he tied the three up with their clothing before he fled, and that he was last seen walking west toward Richmond Street. Read more »

Ask Liz: How Do I Get My Own Rouge and Parc Harems?

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Why do women at the restaurants on 18th Street tolerate the amorous affections of men twice their age, and how do I get to be one of those men? — Envious in Rittenhouse

Are you sure those are “amorous” affections you’re seeing? Maybe your jaundiced Philly view of the world has you seeing prurient interactions where there are none. Haven’t you heard of Take Your Daughter to Rouge Day? No? Well, it’s a thing. So if you want to get affection from a female half your age at a restaurant on 18th Street, I’d suggest you start procreating, stat.

Now that Philly got the nod for the Democratic convention, has received international praise, has a bustling music/restaurant scene and is home to a growing demographic of 30-somethings, what can we do to keep it from becoming too costly, crowded and overblown, like other cities that jumped the shark? — Concerned in Cherry Hill

Concerned, I can’t tell you how glad I am that you asked this question. Not because I share your concerns — I’ve lived through too many Philadelphia renaissances to panic — but because it gave me the perfect excuse to reach out to urban theorist Richard Florida at the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute and my enduring crush. Yes, I know: It’s more common to swoon over musicians or actors, but I’m drawn to urbanist public intellectuals. In fact, if there were a Coachella for people like Richard Florida, I’d be in the front row, wearing a too-low tank top and drunkenly mouthing all the words to “Creative Class Blues.” Lucky for you — a person who actually wants a substantive answer — Florida read your letter and offered a thoughtful response via email: “I’m not too worried about Philly. David Byrne, Moby and Spike Lee have all told us about the downsides of escalating housing prices, the invasion of the global super-rich, the gentrification of neighborhood after neighborhood, and the chasing of creatives out of New York City. These problems thus far remain limited to cities like New York and San Francisco, London and Paris, and to a lesser extent places like Boston, D.C. and Seattle.

“Despite some notable examples, Philadelphia has experienced nowhere near the level of gentrification of these cities, according to a detailed study by economist Daniel Hartley with the Cleveland Federal Reserve. Philly remains an affordable alternative to NYC for the creative class, and that is why many of its members are moving there. It’s a big city with lots of space and lots of neighborhoods, so I think it will take quite a while before it falls to the problems that plague New York and other so-called superstar cities.” Feel better? Well, don’t. Florida thinks you’re just worrying about the wrong thing: “The bigger problems in Philadelphia — and in most cities — remain the gaping gap between the haves and the have-nots and highly concentrated poverty and disadvantage. That’s what deserves our attention.”

I’ve noticed that pretty much every new building is built with wood. This seems to include the new building at 3rd and Market where Shirt Corner used to be and townhomes in my neighborhood made entirely of wood. Isn’t this a fire disaster waiting to happen? — Nervous in Northern Liberties

What you’re seeing is not, actually, buildings made entirely of wood — or at least not regular old wood that Richard Proenneke would use to build a log cabin. Licenses and Inspections commissioner Carlton Williams says, “Commercial and residential buildings are required to use fire-rated materials in properties to control the spread of fires.” Gypsum wallboard is the most common of these materials used in the construction of occupied dwellings. “Also,” he adds, “fire-rated insulation between wood beams prevents fires. That’s standard building practice.”

Liz Spikol has lived in Philadelphia nearly all her life, which means she knows stuff. Got a question? Email it to

Originally published as “Ask Liz” in the September 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Sexual Assault at Port Richmond’s Graffiti Pier Yesterday

A corridor at Graffiti Pier. | Photo by Liz Spikol

A corridor at Graffiti Pier. | Photo by Liz Spikol

Since Conrail moved its coal-carrying operations to Baltimore in the early ’90s, Pier 124 has been a hulking, abandoned ruin at the edge of Port Richmond. Yet graffiti artists from all over the region have given the concrete walls and passageways a second life, making it a vertiable museum of street art, sort of an unsanctioned version of Miami’s Wynnewood Walls. The post-industrial site has become so popular, it attracts sightseers as well as artists.

Perhaps the three people who were at the Pier yesterday were looking at the art; perhaps they were making it. Their names have not been released. But here’s what we do know: Read more »

There’s Good Cheating and Bad Cheating — Here’s How to Tell the Difference


There’s been a lot of gleeful moralizing surrounding the Ashley Madison hack. I assume those who are gloating have never cheated on a lover, never struggled with temptations. If so, good for them. I suppose they’re entitled to a little schadenfreude. But given the puritanical, absolutist thinking (people who are on the website = bad. People who aren’t = good), I’m not sure they understand how websites like Ashley Madison are used. They may not, in fact, understand subtleties around sexual desire and romantic love. Relationships are complex. Monogamy is hard. There are many reasons people choose to have sex outside of their primary relationship, and they’re not all bad. In fact, I’d venture to say there’s good cheating and bad cheating, and it’s fairly easy to tell the difference. How do I know? Well, I’ve done both. So let me break it down. Read more »

Philly Police Cruiser Kills Dog, Devastated Owner Seeks Answers

Photos via Facebook

Photos via Facebook

Sidara Son, who lives with her father in Olney, got her dog Phoebe (above) for her birthday a couple years ago when the dog was just a puppy.

“A few years back I had surgery,” Son says. “I had my ovaries removed and my fallopian tubes removed so I wasn’t able to have kids. People who know me know that I love dogs, so my friend gave [the puppy] to me as a gift, and since then Phoebe has always been my baby.”

Son bought the dog toys and clothes and doted on her like a child. And she took her everywhere. “We did everything together. We went camping together, we went fishing together, we went to the beach together — there was never a moment that I left her. She woke up with me, she went to sleep with me, and every morning I would tell her that she was my sunshine baby. She was my only happiness.”

That happiness was interrupted on August 9th. Read more »

Notorious Obama Birther Philip Berg Now Driving UberX in Philly

Philip Berg is seen here in a stll from te self-published YouTube video promoting his ObamaScare book.

Philip Berg is seen here in a still from the self-published YouTube video promoting his ObamaScare book.

Conor Corcoran, a lawyer who lives in Philly and L.A., was bar-hopping a few weeks ago during one of his Philadelphia trips, when he had an experience he found profoundly unsettling.

“I was deep in my cups, as they say, having a few late-night cheeseburgers with a friend at Fountain Porter,” he recalls. “As you’re wont to do in the middle of the night, you call on Uber to go to the next place. And I ordered an UberX because I like to save my money for tipping bartenders.”

The car that showed up, Corcoran says, was a somewhat beat-up Mercedes, driven by a man in his 60s, who — within 60 seconds of normal passenger-driver chitchat — asked Corcoran and his friend what they thought of President Obama.

“That immediately started setting off bells. I gave my friend a look because my friend is black and here was this white guy at 3 in the morning asking us what we thought of Obama on a dark corner in South Philly.”

Corcoran and his friend said they liked Obama, and the driver suggested they check out his website. He then reached into the backseat and procured a business card with the site’s URL: It also had the driver’s name on it: Philip Berg. “I said to him, ‘I recognize your name from the newspapers,’ and he admitted that he was the Philip Berg behind all those lawsuits and news stories.” Read more »

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