Thursday, June 8, 2023

Mob Rule: My Broad + Liberty Piece On Curbing Unruly Teenage Crowds

Broad + Liberty ran my piece on curbing unruly crowds, like we saw in Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing on Memorial Day.

You can read the piece via the below link or the below text:

Paul Davis: Mob rule — curbing unruly teenage crowds (

I’ve always liked Penn’s Landing and over the years I’ve often visited the popular tourist attraction with my wife and children. Like me, tourists visiting Philadelphia and families from Philadelphia’s neighborhoods are drawn to Penn’s Landing for the many attractions and the riverside scenery.  

But the reputation and serenity of Penn’s Landing may be forever damaged by the unruly mob of teenagers that invaded the area this past Memorial Day.

Reportedly, from 300 to 500 teenagers created chaos and frightened the tourists and other visitors by fighting with each other and vandalizing vehicles. One teenager was beaten badly by a large crowd of other teenagers. Shots also rang out, adding to the chaotic atmosphere. 

Philadelphia Police responded and broke up the crowds, moved them along and although no one was found shot, the police did find shell casings.

“Police acted responsibly and cleared the crowd,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters, for once defending the police. “I think parents should take some responsibility, not just the government and police.” Kenney added.

Kenney also stated that police cannot disperse crowds of teenagers unless their gathering turns violent.

“We can’t keep kids from gathering, it’s just not constitutional to stop them from gathering,” he said. 

“The Philadelphia Police Department will continue to monitor the area for the foreseeable future and continue to work with our local partners and stakeholders to ensure that necessary resources are deployed to the area,” a police spokesperson said in a statement. “Although large crowds are not expected tonight, the public can expect to see an increased police presence in the areas.”

No arrests were made by the police. 

Teenage marauders have gathered in large groups and created chaos in other places, most notably ChicagoOcean City, New Jersey also suffered from large unruly teenagers who created chaos and vandalism on Memorial Day weekend, as well as the previous summer.

Ocean City officials announced that they have issued an emergency order to curb teenage crowds, underage drinking and vandalism. No one will be allowed on beaches after 8 p.m. and the curfew for juveniles is now 11 p.m, changed from 1 a.m. Other New Jersey shore towns are also cracking down on unruly teenage mobs.

I was no angel when I was a teenager in the late 1960s, and I ran with a South Philly teenage street corner gang. But for all of our mischief, we never went on a rampage like we are seeing these days at Penn’s Landing and elsewhere. Back in my day, we were more interested in music, dancing, and partying with girls.    

I reached out to Gary Capuano, a retired Philadelphia Police sergeant, and asked him for his take on the mob of teenagers at Penn’s Landing and how we can curb such violence.  

“Once again a mob of unruly, unscrupulous, unsupervised kids gathered in the Penn’s Landing area Monday night and began to vandalize property, engage in fights, shoot guns and terrorize innocent citizens who were attempting to remember our fallen heroes on Memorial Day,” Capuano replied. 

“It sounds as if our police were once again caught off-guard. If so, why? The police should have learned from past history — remember Mardi Gras 2001? How about most recently, the Center City riots for George Floyd in May 2020? 

“In both instances, the police department was totally unprepared. Where were police personnel assigned to Monday’s detail? We all know manpower is at its lowest as is morale but why weren’t days off canceled for Monday too? Where were the working officers stationed? Why was the chaos allowed to continue? I’m hearing from my former colleagues that there is a stand-down order being given. Bosses go over the air [police radio] and state ‘hold tight.’ They are smart enough not to put these orders in writing.” 

Capuano said that the blame lies at the top with the city’s leadership, starting with the mayor, the managing director, the district Attorney, the appointed police commissioner and then to the commanding officers of the police districts and specialized units. 

“When are the officers going to be allowed to do the job they are paid to do which is protect people and property? Remember the oath we all took? The mayor was quoted as saying what more can the city do. Really? How about you start by allowing Police to do their jobs and make arrests? That’s a thought. Instead of having a small detail of officers assigned to celebrations and gatherings, ensure that they are sufficiently staffed. Cancel days off like in years past. Yes, days off were canceled for the weekend events but I’m hearing not on the actual holiday, Monday. Have supervisors activate the rapid response teams and emergency response teams immediately. There is no reason it should take an hour for response time. Emergency patrol wagons need to be sent. No, they are not intimidating. “Utilize our bike patrol officers and let’s not forget our Mounted Patrol. Both are extremely effective when used correctly. Lock up the aggressors and the big mouths. Crowds will begin to disperse.” 

Capuano added that he believes that things will get worse before they get better. He noted that the police department will reportedly be losing about a thousand more officers of various ranks due to retirement between now and next December. 

“They can’t get any recruits and the ones they do get, drop out not long after starting the process,” Capuano said. “The City will really have to sweeten the police contract come July to lure potential candidates. The ones who will suffer the most will be patrol. When that imaginary pendulum begins to come back toward the center, many will be injured or worse. I pray that I’m wrong.”

Paul Davis, a Philadelphia writer and frequent contributor to Broad + Liberty, also contributes to Counterterrorism magazine and writes the On Crime column for the Washington Times.

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