Will School Budget Cuts Lead to Gang War in Philly?
Jeff Deeney is a social worker who, in his other gig as a writer, might be Philadelphia’s foremost chronicler of poverty. He writes for The Atlantic today about the dangers posed by school closings and the stuff cuts because of the district’s so-called “doomsday budget.” One fear:
Those with knowledge of the system are anticipating a double whammy to the chances of maintaining good order next year in many city schools. Twenty-three schools are closing, meaning that thousands of children will be uprooted and forced to make long commutes through unfamiliar neighborhoods to unfamiliar schools. There is a two-fold potential for violence here: first, in students spending longer periods of time outdoors commuting, especially after school when drug corners are up and running and older boys with guns have hit the streets; second, in the potential for conflict inside schools. Fears of high school gang wars may be overblown — at first. That’s only because Philadelphia’s crime scene is notoriously disorganized, characterized by rag-tag teams of corner hustlers and stick-up artists who are rarely loyal to any superstructure beyond whatever block they happen to be repping at the moment. However, the potential does exist for larger criminal groups to begin organizing, as students with allegiances to closed schools in their neighborhoods are met by hostile students at the new school to which they’ve been sent. This is the greater worry: not that school closings will incite a gang war, since Philly as a general rule doesn’t do gangs and hasn’t since the 1970s, but that gangs will form in order to provide protection to swaths of uprooted students in generally hostile, unfamiliar territory.
Is anybody going to blink? Is anybody going to save Philadelphia from this mess?