PHILADELPHIA – Poverty-stricken families living in Kensington, unable to flee the crime-ridden open-air drug market, are forced to find ways to hide their children from the neighborhood’s in-your-face horrors, while businesses devise tricks to keep addicts and their oozing flesh wounds off their stoops, according to a recovering addict who managed to flee the community.
“The businesses don’t last long. When they are put in the community, the community tends to tear them down,” said Frank Rodriguez. “It’s not a place for anything to thrive.”
HOW DRUGS AND CRIME ARE RAVAGING THIS PHILADELPHIA NEIGHBORHOOD. WATCH:
Kensington has gained international attention for its excessive public drug use and has become a focal point for high crime and poverty in the City of Brotherly Love. The neighborhood had among the worst violent and drug crime rates citywide over a 30-day period ending Aug. 14, according to data compiled by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“I couldn’t imagine the customers to my business having to come through all this chaos just to support my business,” Rodriguez, a business owner himself, told Fox News. “Who wants to come down to this neighborhood … to shop here? Who wants to do that? Nobody.”
In Kensington, frail men and women slumped over stoops muster the strength to inject themselves for another fix. Others, half-clothed, stumble through the busy road or sprawl out on the sidewalk passed out from fentanyl or tranq — or both. Overdose kits, syringes and trash is perpetually scattered across Kensington Avenue.
The owners of Cantina La Martina, a James Beard Award-nominated Mexican spot in Kensington, recently highlighted obstacles their restaurant has faced because of the public drug consumption and large encampments. Co-owner Mariangeli Saez said nightly servings have dropped at least 60% and safety concerns has caused their food supply vendors to refuse to make deliveries, CBS News Philadelphia reported.
Employees “have to come out every single day and clean up numerous times,” Rodriguez said. “There’s needles, vomit, feces, bodies.”
Rodriguez, who used to deal and use drugs in the neighborhood before getting sober, said the area’s escalated substance abuse and crime has led some businesses to go the extra mile to keep their storefronts appealing to prospective customers.
“They have to set up these crazy little hacks and booby traps just to keep people off of their stoops,” he said. “There are businesses that set up sprinkler systems, so they can just be inside and hit a button and the sprinkler system goes off.”
But Kensington is also home to many families with young kids. One lifelong Kensington resident, Rob, told Fox News he was bringing pizza home to his kids to avoid exposing them to the criminals and drug addicts littering the streets.
Residents “can’t even shop in their own community,” Rodriguez told Fox News.
Kensington’s violent crime rate was around 30% higher than the rest of the city from 2012 to 2016, while the area’s average income per capita was half the average citywide salary, according to a Drexel University study published in October 2019. The area also had more complaints about graffiti removal, illegal dumping, vacant houses and dangerous buildings than the city at large.
“There’s people that are literally just waiting for you to nod off so they can go in your bag, take your money, take your drugs, take the shoes off your feet,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez fled Kensington as part of his path to sobriety but goes back nearly every week to provide necessities and life advice to struggling drug users. But despite his efforts, the recovering heroin addict previously told Fox News that the neighborhood has continued to deteriorate.
“It’s 100% getting worse,” he said. “And it’s gonna get worse tomorrow, and the next day is gonna be even worse.”
Click the link to learn more about Philadelphia’s open-air drug market.
Ethan Barton contributed to this report.