Taylor: Stopping violence a priority

State Rep. John Taylor said break­ing up drunk­en crowds that gath­er at loc­al parks and play­grounds late at night is key to pre­vent­ing mob-like at­tacks.

One of the of­fi­cials Port Rich­mond res­id­ents turned to last week in the wake of a mob at­tack that left Mark Lav­elle and his fam­ily shaken — and an en­tire com­munity on edge — was state Rep. John Taylor (R- 177th dist).

Taylor joined Lav­elle in a meet­ing with sev­er­al oth­er of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing 24th Po­lice Dis­trict com­mand­er Capt. Tom Dav­id­son and rep­res­ent­at­ives from the Hu­man Re­la­tions Com­mis­sion, an arm of the city that deals with neigh­bor dis­putes.

Taylor said that the loc­al po­lice dis­trict re­acted quickly and made ar­rests, but he still wants to see the city take the situ­ation more ser­i­ously.

“Our job is to make sure that every­one is do­ing their job,” said Taylor. “With po­lice, that seems to have been the case.”

He said the fight did lead to more po­lice pres­ence in the area, and not just in front of Lav­elle’s house.

“We wanted to make sure there was some tem­por­ary at­ten­tion to the area at least over the next few weeks, and there have been ex­tra squad cars and bike cops and some heli­copters out there,” said Taylor.

Still, the state rep­res­ent­at­ive said more must be done to keep fu­ture vi­ol­ence from oc­cur­ring in the neigh­bor­hood. 

“It’s been a con­stant re­frain over the years — dis­orderly crowds gath­er­ing at Stokely, at A&W, at Camp­bell Square. Even when I was kid, that was the case,” Taylor said of the un­ruly crowds that gathered at area parks and play­grounds the week­end Lav­elle was at­tacked.

“If they drink and carry on at night, they’re break­ing the law and they shouldn’t be there,” said Taylor. “But when it gets to the point where it’s cre­at­ing vi­ol­ence, that’s the dif­fer­ence between a dis­orderly crowd and a powder keg. When that hap­pens, it has to be­come a pri­or­ity to deal with that.”

He’s hop­ing the in­cid­ent will get more people in the neigh­bor­hood in­volved in civic groups and the Port Rich­mond Town Watch.

“If just twelve per­cent of the people in the neigh­bor­hood par­ti­cip­ated in the town watch, that would make a ma­jor dif­fer­ence,” said Taylor.

After the in­cid­ent, Taylor met with the Lav­elle fam­ily in a con­fer­ence that in­cluded the Hu­man Re­la­tions Com­mis­sion — which talked to the par­ents of some of the minors in­volved in the mel­ee — vic­tim as­sist­ance of­ficers and com­munity re­la­tions of­ficers.

Taylor said many res­id­ents who con­tac­ted his of­fice wanted to know why the situ­ation was al­lowed to reach a point where Lav­elle and his fam­ily were threatened in his home.

But he also thinks some of the cov­er­age of the in­cid­ent was heavy handed. 

“So much has been blown out of pro­por­tion,” said Taylor, tak­ing is­sue with tele­vi­sion re­ports that de­scribed the in­cid­ent as a flash mob.

While neigh­bor­hood brawls are noth­ing new, Taylor did say things have changed and that fights these days can lead to something much worse. 

“In this day and age, un­for­tu­nately, it can es­cal­ate quickly and you have some groups that don’t seem to care about the con­sequences,” said Taylor. “I mean, if you’re go­ing to come back in­to the neigh­bor­hood with guns and pipes, you have to know that some­body is go­ing to get hurt and some­body is go­ing to get ar­res­ted.”

Taylor said his un­der­stand­ing was that the in­cid­ent got star­ted over a small dis­agree­ment earli­er in the even­ing.

“From what I was told, there was a minor dust-up and the cops were all over it. The kids left, but then they came back and the cops were there with­in minutes and made sev­er­al ar­rests,” said Taylor. “But when you have people bust­ing in­to someone’s house, it’s much more of a pri­or­ity than just some dis­orderly crowd. You have to nip that in the bud.”

In the week fol­low­ing the at­tack, ra­cial ten­sions have es­cal­ated, and some fear that there will be more clashes between white res­id­ents and minor­it­ies.

Not help­ing the mat­ter are posters at­tached to util­ity poles across the neigh­bor­hood by the white su­prem­acy group Key­stone United. The poster uses a pic­ture of Mark Lav­elle taken from his Face­book page and states “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! HOW MUCH MORE DO WE HAVE TO TAKE!”

Lav­elle has pub­licly de­cried any talk of re­tali­ation, say­ing he wants to see a peace­ful solu­tion.

To Taylor, that means tak­ing groups that gath­er in pub­lic places late a night and drink more ser­i­ously. 

“They have a right to be out there, but they don’t have a right to be drunk and dis­orderly,” Taylor said.

The in­cid­ent also lead to some pos­it­ives, like a coin drop that was held at Camp­bell Square over the week­end to raise money to re­pair the Lav­elle’s door. Also, about a dozen new faces came out for a Port Rich­mond Town Watch patrol last Fri­day. 

This Fri­day, res­id­ents plan to meet at Stokely Play­ground, Thompson and In­di­ana, for a 7 p.m. meet­ing that ex­plores how res­id­ents can make the park and sur­round­ing area safer.••

You can reach at brademaekers@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus