Too close for comfort: Shooting at the E-O

My dad used to tell me to get home by midnight.

“Nothing good happens at 2 a.m., son,” he said.

If there’s ever a truism of life, that’s been it.

Temple beat Penn State at 6:30 p.m. on 9/5/15.

That was good.

Temple won the AAC championship at No. 22-ranked Navy the next year at 3:14 p.m.

Arguably better.

Good things and great pub for the university at normal hours of the day.

Temple football never did anything good at 2 a.m. Nor should it.

Arguably (again), the worst thing that happened to Temple football occurred not at 2 but at 3 a.m. last weekend.

The Owls who work and practice across the street at the Edberg-Olson Complex did not do a thing wrong but what happened at the “Hookah Lounge” (maybe the worst name ever) did not help the cause.

Did not help to recruit, did not help the image of the university, and did not help anything.

Something bad is happening at my beloved Temple University and, while I hate writing about it, the subject cannot be ignored.

When I went to Temple, I clocked out of what is now the Howard Gittis Student Center (rebuild to a two-story building after I left) at 4 a.m. a lot of mornings because I was one of the main students responsible for putting out a print edition of The Temple News. I would walk to my car–usually parked around 13th and Norris–and I never felt safer in my life. Hard to believe, Harry, that 30,000 students, visiting alumni, teachers, and employees could pick up a hard copy of The Temple News on the street five days a week.

As sports editor of The Temple News for my senior year (joining legends who held the same job before me like Craig Evans, Joe Juliano, Mike Ferretti, Phil Jasner, Dick Weiss and Ray Didinger), that made me very proud.

For 12 or so months, it also made me a big man on campus.

“Hi, Mike!!” one of the Temple police officers would say at 13th and Montgomery.

I would reach the library a few more steps and two more cops would say, “Mike, how’s it going?”

“Great, Joe, Bob, Pete (or whomever),” I would say.

I gave each one of those officers a complimentary copy of the paper fresh off the press and they were the first people on campus to read it.

I knew the officers by name and they knew me.

Something has happened at Temple since then and it’s not good.

When I went to Temple, there were 150 full-time, well-armed, well-trained police officers. You couldn’t go the length of a football field without seeing two or three. Behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Temple had the third-largest police force in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

When I told my two uncles–Jimmy Myers and Jack Mulligan, Philadelphia PD detectives–those 4 a.m. stories they told me that was good policing. Protect your area with overwhelming force as a deterrent. Temple putting a hundred police on the street in the middle of the night to protect its assets deterred any thought of criminal activity.

Now there are only 60. Shocked when I heard that number a couple of weeks ago.

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That’s way too large an area for only 60 to cover and you only hear about them coming on the scene after a shooting has happened, not being there to prevent it from happening. Police shouldn’t be a reaction force. They should be a deterrent force.

Temple’s current leadership fails to understand Policing 101.

In recent years, I noticed the feeling of being safe on campus completely evaporated. I went to a couple of pre-game basketball events at Pub Webb. That was always outside the green zone and I never saw a strong police presence west of 16th Street so I stopped going there.

On Cherry and White Day the walk to the Temple train station the last few years was pretty much on my own. There was no real police presence for the students or alumni at the station. You felt like nobody cared about your safety and you were probably right. I saw a couple of police officers on their bikes at 11th and Berks but nobody followed me or the two or three others to the station a block away. That block was East of the Green Zone and dangerously close to the Badlands, probably one of the worst neighborhoods in the United States. Hell, Baghdad outside of its Green Zone was probably safer.

The thought occurred to me that if I had been shot and killed right there on the platform, those guys on the bikes would have been the first there to do compressions and apply a tourniquet. Gee, thanks, but it would have been nice to see you guys on the platform before I was shot. Famous last words before they put the white sheet over me. Gallows humor but that’s what you think of on the platform before the doors of the Fox Chase Train open to save your life.

Temple needs to address this situation not for the future of football on campus but for the future of the students. Hell, for the future of the entire university and, as Yogi Berra might say, it’s getting late early.

My dad was right that nothing good ever happens at 2 a.m. but that’s where the university needs to guarantee its students, football players or not, that they will remain safe, and at least the university is vigilant at that time.

One hundred and fifty police officers on the street at all times might not do it but it certainly won’t hurt.

Shutting down something named Hookah across from the E-O should have happened yesterday. It can happen today and the university should put its foot down.

Beyond that, put a police presence surrounding the campus that benefits the current students as it did those who went there in the 1970s.

The kids today deserve to feel as safe as those same kids felt back then. That they don’t is not only criminal but heartbreaking.

Monday: A Home Run Hire


32 thoughts on “Too close for comfort: Shooting at the E-O

  1. I couldn’t have put it any better Mike. It is sad to see our beloved university being caught up in the ever increasing crime wave, happening not just on and around main campus, but throughout the city and in many other locations across the land. The decrease from 150 to 90 campus police officers is stunning. This situation has obviously caught the attention of the faculty and of course the students. I understand that the faculty union has issued a no-confidence vote against Dr. Wingard and a couple of other staff members. Let’s see where that goes. Something must be done! And done soon! Freshman enrollment continues to decrease. I mean would you feel comfortable sending your kid to Temple these days? The honest answer is no. I spent a lot of time at main campus during my student years and later as president of the College of Engineering Technology Alumni Association and never experienced any serious trouble, although even then you didn’t feel totally safe straying very far off campus. But it was nothing like today. The city administration, along with the university, must come up with a fix, as I said above – real soon! Temple does a lot of good for the city of Philadelphia. Let’s hope for better times.

    • Yeah, this needs to get fixed ASAP. They put 30 more police officers on the beat to bring that number from 60 to 90. Keep need to add on and make sure places like the E-O on Cherry and White Day and the train station and the Cecil B. Moore subway stop is covered with not only one officer but several at each key area. Do not need any more 6abc stories.

      • Yes – we don’t need any more bad press from local TV news outlets. And the Temple police officer, Christopher Fitzgerald, who was shot and killed by an 18 year-old “rich kid” from Bucks county (go figure) got national coverage. That is devastating!

  2. Mike

    I think that if you looked into it, you would be shocked at just how depleted the PHILADELPHIA POLICE FORCE is. The city admits to being down over 700 officers, but I’d suggest that number is much higher than they would be willing to admit to.

    Additionally, there are hundreds of officers who are out on disability for one reason or another. The number I recall seeing most recently was around 500. There is not adequate policing anywhere in the city.

    I have been on North Broad St. around the midnight hour a couple of times in the past few years, it is a free-for-all just up above Temple’s campus (and I’m sure on). Of course something has to be done about it, but don’t hold your breath.

    • I read somewhere where Philly was down some 1300 police officers as of late last year. I can’t help but think about how one Frank Rizzo would have handled the situation. Love him or hate him, the city (and TU campus) was a lot safer under his tenure.

  3. Well said, Mike. Let’s hope the number of officers on-duty continues to go up and not down. Temple deserves better.

  4. I attended Temple in the mid to late 60’s (class of ’68). But I was lucky to be going to Tyler School of Art which back then and for many years after was up in Elkins Park very near Cheltenham Ave. I was on the track & field team which practiced downtown in the winter months (on an indoor board track set up outside and in the spring season we practiced at old Temple Stadium close to Tyler which was handy for me). But initially I took a bus down to the main campus and drove down there my last 2 years (I commuted from the Doylestown area every day for 4 years). Maybe I was naive, but I never felt threatened even tho North Philly, especially just north of campus was a dangerous place – I always stayed on Broad Street which was safer than off on the side streets of course. But when on campus things seemed safe, altho there were very occasional shootings on or near campus even back then. Not long after that Police Commish Rizzo (later mayor) cleaned things up by supposedly allowing the police to beat up on trouble makers on the streets – and it apparently worked. I’m not advocating that but something today obviously needs to be done. A college buddy of mine from back in the day won’t even go downtown now-a-days, even center city. It’s got to effect recruiting to some degree – both athletes and general students alike. Sorry situation.

  5. I attended in the late 70’s, always felt safe walking around campus (even at 3:00am). Off campus you just needed to use common sense. Now it’s another story which is the main reason I oppose an on campus stadium ….. remember the Connie Mack Stadium days, “mister for $20 I’ll watch your car” (inflation)

    • I received my BS in ’78. I never ran across any of this gun play (or robberies of students for that matter) even when attending night classes. I too remember the old Connie Mack Stadium days with that small parking lot. You usually had to park on a nearby street where some kid “volunteered” to watch your car for a certain fee. On an-campus football stadium would be nice, but parking would certainly be a major issue. I like the Linc with tailgating in K-Lot! We’ll just have to get Jeffrey to make rental $$ a little more reasonable.

    • It was a quarter when I was a real little kid walking with my brother and my dad to the Phils’ game. Sort of like The Tacony Palmyra Bridge. Now that’s three bucks with a bonus bridge opening thrown in every now and then.

    • Steve, attended TU around the same timeframe and would say my experience was similar. Now I grew up in Port Richmond and knew where not to “wander” off campus, plus as you said applied a little common sense. Now days I don’t even want to go to center city. About the only place I venture in Philly is the Linc for Temple games. While I agree with everything said here about TU needing to do something I think the overall decline of safety and increasing crime in the city is a contributing factor

      • I was shocked when a place like Pub Webb was built. That was always a block or two farther West than I ever went on campus. 12th to 15th street was about as safe as any place in the city. Common sense. Thought Temple would expand its safety footprint when they built the E-O and, until last week, that spot was immune from the ills of the neighborhood. Had no idea the Hookah Lounge even existed. I did not notice it there last April.

  6. Truth is the first casualty of war, right? No one here dares to blurt out the truth behind all this, “AS ye sow, so shall ye reap”, I think is the old line. These things will help end Temple FB also. We have always been a wild uncivilized land, IMO…. WE need the ‘evils’ of a strong Police just to be safe, oh yes we do….

    • Time to get tough, really tough! That is if we want to see our alma mater and much of the city survive! It has come to that! Do what is necessary to put an end to this thuggery! Why should we be intimidated by these street assassins, as I like to call them! If the Philadelphia and campus police aren’t able to do what is necessary, deploy well-armed National Guardsmen in the affected areas. Or send in the Marines or the 82nd Airborne special ops! Whatever it takes to restore a reasonably safe environment! Do it! Do it now!

      • Sadly, it might come to the National Guard. Too many people throw their arms up and say “nobody wants to be a police officer anymore” and “we’re just going to have to live with staffing shortages” but when the bad guys start to outnumber you and be in places you are not, time to do something drastic.

  7. just got back from Japan, the government precludes the average citizen from owning guns. Centuries of Cultural/Societal non-violence. compare to our cowboy culture?

    I graduated in ’79 and used to walk past the Joe Frazier gym on the way home. About once a month one of the guys, who always stood by the door, would give me a ride home. Random acts of kindness have been replaced by persistent violence, in every city. No Philly is not unique.

    Drayton said it best, the dudes are hard, focused. This stuff will hurt enrollment, but will have little effect on recruiting.

    • Why wouldn’t the situation affect recruitment? As full-time students, the players would be facing the same set of circumstances as any other student wouldn’t they?

    • This country’s love of guns is a sickness, plain and simple. The wrong side won in the Revolutionary War if the descendants of the winning side really believe that “a well-regulated Militia” means that every Tom, Dick and Harry not part of a Militia can have a gun.

      • Guns have been around for hundreds of years and we never saw anything even close to the “gun violence” that is going on around the country right now. We need to stop blaming guns and deal with the real source of the matter – a self-gratifying and often lawless society, much of which couldn’t care less about their neighbor. Depleted police forces. Fatherless young men who will have guns no matter what kind of new gun laws are put in place. Drugs lie at the root of much of the gang fights in the city’s poorer sections. Law abiding citizens have a right to own firearms in order to protect themselves and their families from armed thugs up to no good. And I personally know of no one who “loves” guns.

  8. Freedom to own guns vs the general welfare of society; the common good vs individualism; how can we relieve the tension between individual rights and public safety? Pretty soon the soccer moms will raise up…..,

    Why are we are raising the tide on both sides? Letting anyone and everyone own a gun just so we can double the size of our police forces, this equals a zero sum gain/persistent violence.

    Looks like we got another small OL/G transfer. Hey coach, we need big tackles not more small guards!

    • As I have said over and over- that gun sitting there on the kitchen table is not going to do a damn thing unless somebody picks it up to do some target shooting at the local sportsman’s club, go hunting, or protect themselves and their family (all totally legal), or go out to rob, steal or commit murder. Not everyone who uses a firearm while committing a crime is mentally ill. They just have no respect for the law. There are plenty of existing gun laws. Law breakers will always be able to obtain firearms. People kill people! Does the name Timothy McVeigh ring a bell? Before guns, people hacked each other to death. So people will always find a way to kill each other. It isn’t the gun!

      • Well, yes and no. The saying “bringing a knife (or sword) to a gun fight doesn’t work too well for the knife guy! And it isn’t just “guns.” We’re talking semi-automatic guns and even automatic (machine gun type) weapons that fire many rounds very quickly which can obviously do a lot of damage in a short time – so things are not equivelant. The real bottom line is the money flowing thru gun, ammunition and acrutriments sales.

  9. States like Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Minnesota are awash in all types of firearms.
    Closer to home, counties in Pennsylvania like Clearfield, York, Dauphin and Cumberland also have an abundance of guns.

    But the murder rates in those places are very low. Guns are not the problem.

    If the main reason for the murder rate is unmentionable, then the issue will never be resolved. It’s easier to move to the ‘burbs and send your kids to PSU, Pitt, West Chester or any PSAC school.

      • People vote with their feet. You and every other reader of this blog does not reside on North Broad between Master and Susquehanna or any other neighborhood in North Philadelphia.

        Living in Bucks or Montco and voting Obama/Hillary/Biden and bitching about gun violence with a BLM sign in the front yard does not cut it.  

    • Agree 100%! Not the gun! I think that’s all we need to say about the real cause of the problem, especially in the larger cities. It wil be interesting to see how the city and the university apply remedial action.

      • Agree 100% psc and Jim, I own several guns and they haven’t shot anyone yet. Just sit there in the safe until I go out hunting or to the range

    • She would have to take a $1.1 million pay cut. I still say it would be worth it for her because if she gets Temple just one deep run (say, Elite 8) in four years, she gets a $7-10 million contract somewhere else to coach men. If she stays with women, the MOST she will ever make is $4 million. One step back, three steps forward. Is her agent that clever? Doubt it.

    • Can TU afford her, everything I’ve read on this has her making a lot more $$ than it seem Temple can pay

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