Sunday night there was another fatal shooting just off Penn's campus. This shooting was at that fine Penn institution, Club Wizzards, conveniently located next to Koko Bongo and only a block from Penn's Jerry Lee Center of Criminology.
Koko Bongo and Wizzards (the extra Z is for Zest!): Your one-stop shop for all your murder and mayhem research needs.
Around midnight campus police were flagged down on routine patrol. Upon entering the club, the two officers heard gunshots and confronted an armed suspect. When the suspect pointed his gun at the officers, one of the officers opened fire. For the second time in a month, a cop used deadly force on the corner of 38th and Chestnut.
Two shootings this year and a Penn student hit by a stray bullet only two years ago, all in the same place. Penn must do something in response to the violence epidemic festering right next to campus. And I don't mean more neon vests.
In an e-mail to the student body, President Gutmann wrote "The University has pursued every available means to prevent these types of incidents from occurring in the future, including additional police overtime, extra patrols, additional lighting and surveillance cameras."
But these stopgap measures hardly encompass "every available means." The administration's "ongoing dialogue with the owners of the property" should focus on one thing: the immediate and permanent closure of the club.
Another dozen guys in Day-Glo yellow will not prevent these shootings. Hell, you could give every last Penn employee - faculty included - a neon vest, and these shootings will continue unabated in the neighborhood just north of campus.
Same goes for extra security cameras and lights. These measures follow a simple theory of crime prevention: All else being equal, people don't commit crimes if someone is watching them.
But all else isn't equal. These crimes were almost certainly fueled - literally - by alcohol. Like any of us who have awoken half-drunk next to some lazy-eyed creature from Accounting 101, the deceased at Koko Bongo and Wizzards drowned reason in stupefying booze. As Paris Hilton and many Facebook albums prove, cameras don't prevent ghastly, drunken mistakes and you can't see extra police when you're blackout drunk.
Instead of spending an extra million on some half-assed security measure that'll give only illusory safety, Penn should do whatever it takes to shut down Wizzards, Koko Bongo and any other magnet for violence near this campus.
The temporary cease operations order from the Department of Licenses and Inspections is a good start. But these venues that attract violence like moths to the flame can not be allowed to ever resume operations.
We've identified a common link between the shootings near campus. Part of a robust situational approach to crime prevention involves the systematic identification and removal of crime opportunities. Dive bars and shady strip joints attract a clientele more prone toward violence. And once the armed and dangerous arrive, these sketchy joints saturate them in the two things most likely to provoke violence in young males: alcohol and women.
The Department of Public Safety has done an admirable job protecting students from violence. But removing focal points of violence from the neighborhood goes beyond DPS's purview. Doing so is a critical step in any realistic response to this month's violence.
Of course, Wizzards does offer a valued public good - cheap lap dances - and surely must be a great place for medical research on venereal diseases. And although a strip steak at Chili's is never truly complete without a striptease, the benefits just don't outweigh the costs.
If Penn is eager to kick frats off campus just for beating their pledges (simple assault at best), then maybe we should be a teensy bit keen to toss places like Wizzards out of the neighborhood too.
Penn has a bit of pull in this town. If Amy Gutmann demanded those debased dens be in shutters, it would happen. And if it doesn't, the University should immediately file civil lawsuits against the operators of these institutions for causing a public nuisance.
Maureen Rush, vice president of Public Safety, was quoted in the Inquirer cheering the order to close Wizzards. "We're very grateful to hear that, quite frankly."
I'll be grateful when it closes for good.
Jim Saksa is a College senior from Toms River, N.J. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You, Sir, are an Idiot appears on Tuesdays.Comments powered by Disqus
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