Residents voice frustration with increasing crime

Often the wheels of progress are slow. But sometimes they will surprise with their swiftness, like they did last week after about 150 answer-seeking residents and business owners attended a town hall meeting in Mayfair.

City Councilman Bobby Henon convened the Feb. 18 meeting at Mayfair Community Center to talk about a perceived lack of police coverage in portions of the 15th district, a recent shooting at Frankford and Bleigh avenues, recent violence and disorderly activity at a Frankford Avenue bar, dismissal problems at two local public schools and other pressing issues. State Rep. John Taylor, Northeast police commanders and an assistant superintendent from the School District of Philadelphia took part.

Less than a day after the meeting, the operators of the problematic bar, known now as Fiddler’s Green and formerly as McNoodles, notified the chairman of the Mayfair Community Development Corporation, Joe DeFelice, that they would close the bar until further notice. The CDC posted a statement from the bar operators on Facebook on Feb. 19.

“After speaking with several parties within the community, we have decided to close doors of the establishment located on 7358 Frankford Avenue until an overhaul of proper liquor practices can be identified and established going forward,” the proprietors wrote in a message signed “McNoodle’s management.”

“We appreciate the communities [sic] business and concerns and hold each person [sic] suggestions in high regard. We hope to serve the public in a more responsible fashion in the near future.”

The proprietors attended the prior night’s meeting, but remained silent until the final stages of the two-hour session, when Henon asked them to address the crowd. Neighbors have complained about unruly crowds outside the business.

One manager announced his name, but the second did not. The second manager said that neighbors were exaggerating the problems at the bar. He acknowledged that business has grown at the bar since a name change and that the place has been cited for liquor license violations, particularly alcohol sales to underage patrons, but other bars in the area are no different, he said. Yet, other businesses aren’t targeted for enforcement like his bar is, he claimed. Online records show that Liquor Control officers have cited the place at least 17 times since 2008, with multiple violations issued on most occasions.

Fiddler’s Green gained widespread negative publicity earlier this month when one woman smashed a bottle over another woman’s head, then used the broken glass to slash her face and throat. The victim was hospitalized in critical condition.

At last week’s meeting, Taylor said that he had met with the proprietors to discuss earlier complaints about the bar. They assured him they would address the problems. Within days, the throat slashing happened.

“We spoke to them face to face and shortly after they had a major incident,” Taylor said. “It’s not normal to have that kind of commotion outside any business. The stuff that goes on outside the bar, we just can’t tolerate.”

To address the other neighborhood issues, Henon said he will facilitate the creation of two “task force” committees of local authorities, residents and business owners. One group will address police coverage issues and the other will try to resolve neighbors’ issues with Lincoln and Meehan students.

The police department has already agreed to beef up police coverage in the northern portion of the 15th district, including the Mayfair and Holmesburg areas, Henon said. Inspector Benjamin Naish said that the district will get more help from specialty units such as Highway Patrol and narcotics squads. Also a police mobile unit will be positioned at Frankford and Cottman avenues during targeted hours seven days a week.

A Bridesburg man commented during last week’s town hall meeting that police coverage is a problem in other parts of the 15th district, too. While folks in Mayfair may think that the southern end of the district gets most police attention, that’s not the case in Bridesburg, a relatively isolated neighborhood separated from Frankford and other sections by highways, railroads and other barriers. At one time, the man said, Bridesburg had a single dedicated police car that would patrol its streets routinely. But that car hasn’t been in Bridesburg lately, the man said.

The new schools task force will look at ways to stop Lincoln and Meehan kids from storming through residential streets and driveways after leaving school. Many students walk through the neighborhood to access public transportation on Frankford Avenue. Neighbors say that a lot of the kids are disruptive and threatening to residents. Two teenagers involved in a Feb. 9 shooting at Frankford and Bleigh were Lincoln students, police said. ••