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GUEST COLUMNIST: When Penn stops being polite and starts getting real

(12/03/98 10:00am)

It was hardly the most memorable aspect of last spring's thank-God-no-one-was-rendered-impotent Palestra shooting, but a man was killed. He was young and fearless and so enamored of the thug life that a brazen bust of Tupac Shakur spanned his shoulderblades. In fact, if you were from North Philly and you weren't his mother, you called him "Tupac." Anthony Davis himself was relatively insignificant. Forgettable. But I knew there was something familiar about the name when I saw it on the front page of Monday's Washington Post: Anthony Davis, a young drug-pushing inner-city victim of black-on-black homicide. This Anthony Davis, however, went by the alias "Ant" and hailed from a neighborhood in Northeast D.C. they called Little Vietnam. He also died in Little Vietnam, a few years ago. This Davis's death didn't make the papers. When he first died, at least. But almost randomly, the Post in one of those perennial explorations of urban violence, had picked up the death of Anthony Davis and chronicled the complex chain of events that led up to his slaying. They looked up the crime records for the neighborhood and talked to his killer in jail, and talked to his mother and traced their family histories. Anthony Davis, in two cities, was ghetto Everyman. They are predictable stories: single unwed mothers who'd shacked up with abusive, alcoholic boyfriends who when crack hit in the mid-'80s became a crack addicts. And just when they were realizing that all of their dreams of moving out had pretty much dried up like a raisin in the sun, they was going to the police station to pick up their sons. Every ghetto, every city. · We, at Penn, border on a ghetto. The administration and the revisionists have been known to suffer bouts with denial over this, but these days we're in a stage of acceptance. They even sent my parents literature about the urban blight that surrounds campus. When it suits them, students use it as small talk, as a perpetual joke. Say you live in "West Philadelphia" (forgetting we live in the most densely policed slice of Philly) and it's instant street cred to the high-school posse back home. Drink Olde English on the weekends, do 3 a.m. stints at Billybob's and shop at "Theftway" and -- nevermind the Diesel jeans and Polo sweater Dad's credit card furnished for you to do it all in -- you're eminently "down." But there is, doubtless, a point of diminishing marginal utility to the inner-city cache. When a gangfight spills into our campus. When a tough kid out on bail sneaks into Steiny-D with a knife. When your frat brother gets shot on the way home from Smoke's. What is this, Lebanon? Where are the Penn Police, shutting down parties or something? Where is our $30,000? Warnell Owens was young and drinking 40s -- and Jagermeister and margaritas and other things -- the night late last fall when the Penn Police decided to bust him. He was loud and unruly and a little imposing. But when a Penn cop decided to arrest him on a summary disorderly conduct charge, the Harvard-educated Owens apparently thought he had license to just retire back into the FIJI house where he'd been chilling with a friend from Penn. That, unfortunately for Owens, is not the way it works when you're being arrested. To resist arrest is a crime in itself; to merely strike a cop is considered aggravated assault -- a very serious crime punishable by up to 20 years in jail. But when the cops pursued Owens, he beat two of them unconscious. He reached for one cop's gun. Another two cops ended up in the hospital from his beatings. It was so audacious, so surreal that 60 cops showed up. The police were restrained; they never drew their guns. Less than a year later, Owens got a plea bargain: no agg assault on the record, no jail time. Nothing that could jeopardize his future, hurt his employment. Just a charge of simple assault and a lot of community service. No need to wreck such a promising future. Never mind the severe facial injuries he inflicted, the collective months off the police beat, the weeks the Division of Public Safety spent trying to determine whether the police had been too surly toward Owens' host at Penn, who also fled inside the FIJI house. Give him community service, he was drunk. Earlier in the year, the Tabard Society was congregating with Zeta Beta Tau to dispense alcohol and entertainment to the masses on a night when Theta happened to be doing the same the same thing. In a classic solution to a classic turf war, Tabard allegedly alerted the state's Liquor Control Enforcement agency to the Theta party. The party was busted. The LCE handed out citations for underage drinking to the tune of a few hundred bucks. Fortunately for Theta, none of the members were depending on liquor revenue the way drug dealers rely on their earnings. Not one sister risked going to jail for her activities. None of them, to my knowledge, were carrying semiautomatic weapons. The stakes just weren't that high. Look, the criminal justice system is here to protect you. Of course, there's a lot more to lose when you're an Ivy League student. And the cops, the courts -- they'll take that into consideration if you screw up.

GUEST COLUMNIST: Gen-X forsakes first MTV candidate

(09/04/98 9:00am)

I happened to be in Irvington, Virginia, when a month otherwise characterized by deliberate insolence (and air as thick and heady as the molasses voices of ruffled hired help) erupted suddenly and sent the nation's pundits back to work mopping clean a flood of oligarchs and spin doctors and clandestine messages behind Tommy Hilfiger ads and months-old dirt. And, being a budding pundit cursed by that uniquely Southern dearth of decent newspapers (the local paper's business section, to be sure, boasted a fascinating cover feature on nutritional tips for cows), I planted myself in the "parlor" by a mahogany trimmed TV. They sneered at first, in their golf gear and diamonds. "Ah jus' have hudd e-nough!" crowed one. (Ha ha, wait till you hear the one about the cigar!) But somewhere amidst the nauseating nonstop blur of C-Span commentary, between "Rivera" and Larry King, it hit. They watched a little closer, a little angrier. They'd been "misled." Maybe it wasn't gonna be alright, after all. Maybe that bubble economy would burst, maybe those other, piddly nations could affect us, and maybe that charming drawl that had won women and voters and changes of topic so many times before could not ensure their security. But this was Virginia, and 65 percent of them hadn't cared for the louse in the first place. They shook their heads, turned on their heels and left. CNN had done its job, and they were righteous and indignant and entitled to another scotch. It wasn't until the next morning, when I switched the channel from the nonstop Clinton coverage to a Mase video, that I understood the awesome scope of this "watershed" confession. MTV News was pissed. Wielding phrases like "big embarrassment" and "lack of contrition," a panel of racially and sexually diverse viewers the network convened in its hip, gen-x newsroom assailed William Jefferson Clinton. They separated the sinner from the flourishing (?) economy and state of national well-being. Arms folded in indignance, they demanded "humility" from the president. This, from the news show that has become somewhat of a cable-TV Hamptons, a retreat from the stuffy so-called "objective'' networks. This from the network that threw its first Inaugural Ball when Clinton was elected. The network that eulogized Tupac, that never stopped playing TLC just because Left Eye was an arsonist, that never banned the label Death Row just because Snoop Doggy was almost sent there. It was unanimous. The panel members had deemed the mea culpa pathetic. And in doing so, they were not simply agreeing with stuffy old Orrin Hatch, they were making an obvious but ground-breaking differentiation. The title of President is different from the title of, say, "Material Girl" or "King of Pop," or even "The Artist." And while Clinton may have been a bit confused about this when People magazine proclaimed him "sexiest man alive," his inauguration -- and his second inauguration -- did not, according to this panel, give him sudden license to become the most oversexed man alive. Hugh Heffner, perhaps -- but even Hugh Grant had to apologize when he -- uh, she -- blew it. But certainly, you say, Bill Clinton is not the first president to philander like a movie star. Fortunately, however, the status of women in society has evolved since JFK's day. The media no longer turns a blind eye to men who mess around with the chick who carries in the newspaper, or to sexual harrassment suits, for that matter. No matter, said Clinton. The prez, like Kennedy before him, was loved in Hollywood, loved at the Hamptons. His rhetoric about race and the evils of Big Tobacco was more popular than Richard Gere's Tibet musings (and it was a lot easier to forget how Clinton signed the welfare reform bill than it was to erase the memory of Gere's, uh, antics). Clinton was in with the MTV Generation, and they were the "in" crowd. And the women who accused him, who spoke out about him? Trailer trash, hussies. If Clinton was MTV, they were more like the Nashville Network, but more low-rent. Go after Bill Clinton, they contemptuously warned, and prepare for a complete debasement of any character you ever hoped to uphold. It is unlikely that MTV News will ever badger Paula Jones for an interview, even with that unsightly deviated septum all taken care of. And once Monica gets her life back, it's doubtful that she'll ever make People's 50 Most Beautiful People list.

May sees jump in campus robberies

(06/04/98 9:00am)

University Police responded to twice as many robberies within their jurisdiction during the month of May as they did in April, although the frequency of most other crimes remained fairly steady, according to an informal Daily Pennsylvanian tally. "There's no sort of pattern here," Det. Commander Tom King said of the increase. "It was just overly quiet in April." King called the collective robberies during May "sporadic and disjointed," and emphasized that most of them occurred at the outer reaches of University Police jurisdiction, which spans the area from the Schuylkill River to 43rd Street between Market Street and Baltimore Avenue. Six robberies were reported during the month of April, whereas University Police responded to 12 within their regular patrol area in May -- and another five outside their patrol area. King said the increased "availability" of officers to respond to situations when fewer students are on campus frees them up to assist Philadelphia Police officers during the summer months. He also added that most of the victims of robberies in May were unaffiliated with the University. Additionally, crimes sometimes get logged as robberies and then reduced to thefts, purse snatches or flim-flams, King said. During a robbery, a perpetrator must by definition use or suggest force and threaten the victim in order to commit a theft. It is a serious crime -- a felony that can bring a criminal more than ten years in prison if convicted. Of all types of crime that occur on and around campus, robbery is the most frequent. King stressed that the University Police has seen robbery within jurisdiction drop dramatically since last year. "Even with the May figures, robbery is still down 38 or 39 percent since last year," he said. In one recent incident the evening of May 26, a female University student was approached by a man from behind outside her apartment on the 4000 block of Walnut Street. At about 5:45 p.m., he grabbed her, simulating a weapon under his jacket, and she surrendered an undetermined amount of cash. Police have not yet arrested a suspect in the incident. In another occurrence on May 14, the Rite Aid Pharmacy on the 4200 block of Walnut Street was robbed at 7:51 p.m. by an unknown suspect who also simulated a weapon. No further information was immediately available on the robbery. University Police also responded to three robberies well outside the boundaries of their jurisdiction during the month of May; one at gunpoint at 46th and Chestnut streets the night of May 17, a strong arm robbery carried out by two suspects minutes later at 46th and Market streets and a strong arm at 48th Street and Osage Avenue last Monday, June 1.

Drunken incident sparks accusations of police brutality

(06/01/98 9:00am)

Bishop Ireton High School '96 Alexandria, Va. Bill Sofield was just a College freshman whose older brother and a friend were in town and in the mood to take him out drinking on a brisk October evening. The controversy began outside the Phi Gamma Delta, or FIJI, fraternity house at 3619 Locust Walk, where the three men were approached by University Police officer Jeff Dougherty at about 10 p.m. October 30. In later testimony, Dougherty said he approached the men for "arguing loudly," and tried to place them under arrest for disorderly conduct a few minutes later. Bill Sofield's brother Richard, a 27-year-old assistant U.S. attorney, decided to step in and speak to Dougherty about the charges, instructing the two to wait inside the fraternity house. But when other police officers arrived to back up Dougherty and Richard Sofield allowed himself to be arrested, several officers decided to go after the two others. While Bill Sofield simply waited inside the house, however, Warnell Owens, a 26-year-old friend of Richard's and former football player at Harvard University, went through the house into an alley in the back, where he was stopped by two University Police officers. Owens allegedly proceeded to repeatedly punch the two officers -- as well as two relief officers who showed up at the scene -- rendering two of them unconscious and generating a triple assist, which brought at least 50 police officers from five different forces to the scene. Police finally subdued him with nightsticks and mace, and all five ended up in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with varying degrees of injuries. Between 20 and 30 officers then stormed the FIJI house in search of the younger Sofield, who is now 19 and a brother in the fraternity. He was arrested and, along with his brother, spent the next two nights in jail at the Philadelphia Police Department's 18th District headquarters at 55th and Pine streets, about 15 blocks west of campus. In a routine alternative for people without previous criminal records who are issued summary charges of disorderly conduct, Richard Sofield took a "Disorderly Conduct Alternative Program" in November and his record was expunged without a hearing or a trial. In a January trial at the city Criminal Justice Center, Court of Common Please Judge James Deleon acquitted Bill Sofield of the disorderly conduct charges, as well as a charge of resisting arrest. And after months of trying to bargain with prosecutors, Owens' lawyer, Paul Hetznecker, finally agreed on a September trial date. He will plead innocent to the charges, arguing that "the confrontation by the University Police was completely unnecessary and improper," according to Hetznecker, who refused to elaborate. But the events that took place inside the FIJI house -- where roughly two dozen officers from University and Philadelphia police forces retrieved Sofield after arresting his brother and finally subduing Owens -- are still disputed, and while the Sofields have made no formal allegation of brutality, a civil suit alleging that police beat Bill Sofield unnecessarily is still a definite possibility. FIJI brothers who witnessed the arrest were the first to make such an accusation against police, submitting several similar anonymous statements to the University Police the Tuesday following the incident, alleging that officers beat an acquiescent Sofield unconscious inside the house before arresting him. And Sofield's lawyer Walter Phillips, who took pictures of Sofield's black eyes when he was released from prison, has repeatedly presented the pictures as evidence that police conduct was overly harsh. But an internal University Police investigation in December concluded that officers were justified in striking Sofield because he was flailing his arms and resisting arrest. Sources close to the Sofield family told The Daily Pennsylvanian then that their first priority was to "deal with the criminal charges" before considering a civil suit. But although Sofield's acquittal cleared the first obstacle toward a suit, the Sofields have until November 1999 to file one, and have yet to do so.

Crime at U. sees overall decrease

(06/01/98 9:00am)

But the campus was rocked by a number of high-profile incidents. Bishop Ireton High School '96 Alexandria, Va. But while robberies were down by nearly 30 percent, high-profile crimes hit Penn's campus hard yet again, climaxing in a March 1 shooting outside the Palestra that killed a North Philadelphia man and wounded three others, including a College senior. The year was also punctuated by the evening shooting of College senior James McCormack in November; the early-morning assault of a Penn Health System secretary inside her office in January; and the morning stabbing of a Penn groundskeeper outside the Wawa at 38th and Spruce streets in February, two days before the Palestra shooting. That shooting, which made national headlines, was a late-afternoon gunfight on 33rd Street outside Hill House following the Philadelphia Public League basketball championship. College senior John La Bombard, 22, was struck in his left thigh by a stray bullet that penetrated the thin walls of the Blauhaus, a blue fine-arts building on 33rd Street near the site of the shooting. La Bombard, interviewed later that week, said, "I'm just glad it didn't hit my penis." Philadelphia Police have arrested two South Philadelphia men in the shooting. Detectives with the city's homicide unit say the shooters had a preconceived plan to kill Anthony Davis, 22, a convicted drug dealer from North Philadelphia who had "bad blood" with a group of men from South Philadelphia. Kyle McLemore, 21, of the Grays Ferry section of South Philadelphia, turned himself in two weeks after the shooting under the counsel of his lawyer. He was held on charges of murder, conspiracy, aggravated assault and related charges at a hearing March 26. Meanwhile, police with the Philadelphia Police fugitive unit arrested another 21-year-old South Philadelphian, Nate Ortiz, on May 12, after pursuing him for more than a month. While detectives said the dispute between Davis and the South Philadelphia "gang" was over a girl the North Philadelphian was dating, McLemore's lawyer Charles Peruto, who maintains his client's innocence, called the dispute a "drug war." Davis, McLemore and Ortiz all had lengthy criminal records which included drug charges and weapons violations. They had been feuding for weeks prior to the basketball game, according to witnesses at McLemore's hearing, and had even been thrown out of the Palestra for a fistfight at the beginning of the second game in the girls-boys doubleheader. But the incident brought mass media attention to Penn and to the Public League championships, which brought gunfire -- but no injuries -- to the area around the Palestra last year. Riots have occurred at the games in the recent past. The University is still evaluating whether hosting the championships again next year at the Palestra -- which had to install metal detectors for the championship this year -- presents a security risk too grave to undertake. The stabbing of Broderick Barnville, a 31-year-old University groundskeeper, at 7 a.m. February 27, also brought local media attention to campus -- and a change in the policies of the Wawa, the 24-hour convenience store outside of which the stabbing occurred. Once a place where homeless, panhandlers and patients of nearby rehabilitation centers like the Veterans Administration Medical Center methadone clinic could gather for morning coffee and conversation, Wawa now closes off its bathroom and seating area to customers between the hours of 2 a.m. and 10 a.m. -- as per the request of its landlord, the University. According to a manager at the Wawa, the order came in early March, shortly after Barnville was stabbed -- by a man witnesses said was a "regular" who was possibly homeless or mentally ill. But University Police have yet to find the man who sliced one of Barnville's major arteries, nearly killing him. Two other suspects in high-profile crimes of the 1997-98 school year currently await trial. Larry Ray, 28, was arrested in February after allegedly assaulting Penn Health System secretary Toby Laiken, 53, at about 5:15 a.m. January 19 inside her office in the Penn Tower Hotel, which Ray was allegedly burglarizing. And Keith Schofield, 33, awaits trial after allegedly shooting McCormack in the abdomen during a failed carjacking outside of the student's girlfriend's house on the 4200 block of Pine Street as he was leaving at about 9 p.m. November 24.

Campus police move into high-tech HQ

(06/01/98 9:00am)

Bishop Ireton High School '96 Alexandria, Va. As recently as last fall, University police officers, detectives, administrators and technicians arrived for work, took roll call and even inspected fingerprints inside a dilapidated Victorian townhouse on Locust Walk and an annex behind it. But although it was cramped and uncomfortable, the worst part of the 19th century station, officials said, was the distance between it and other public safety facilities. University Police operated out of the house and its annex; Spectaguard security guards worked out of a graduate tower at 37th and Chestnut streets and Weightmann Hall at 33rd and Walnut streets; and victim support and special services were located in a mini-station on South 40th Street. The new headquarters, which consolidates the services of the University's ever-expanding Division of Public Safety under one roof, has been in the works for more than two years. The project was a top priority of Managing Director of Public Safety Tom Seamon, a former Philadelphia Police deputy commissioner who came to Penn in 1995. By October 1996, the University had closed a deal on the warehouse, purchasing it for $1 million. The headquarters are equipped with a high-tech "Penncom" center, a room with multiple dispatchers and surveillance cameras that can view areas all around campus, as well as holding cells and a gym for employees. The headquarters cost $2.5 million and took about 14 months to renovate. Beyond the headquarters' obvious technological and convenience advantages, the location of the new building, west of 40th Street in a diverse neighborhood, makes the Penn Police an asset to the community, administrators believe. Because the location and size of the building give the headquarters increased visibility, it will act as a deterrent to criminal activity in the neighborhood, as well as be a visible service for community members to take advantage of, according to Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush. Indeed, University President Judith Rodin addressed the community directly at the building's gala opening January 27, an event which was replete with community leaders. "This building bespeaks our continued commitment to the community and its safety," she said. Community leaders agreed that the headquarters was an extremely positive addition to the neighborhood. Joe Ruane, who heads the Spruce Hill Community Association, said he felt the station would make the 40th street corridor a more appealing, viable location for retail -- something that could, in turn, spawn foot traffic. "The areas where there's been the greatest amounts of street crime have been on the fringes of campus," said History Department Chairperson Lynn Lees, an officer in Penn Faculty and Staff for Neighborhood Issues. Also soon to be serving the community on the 40th Street business corridor will be a new headquarters for the University City District, a special services district providing security and sidewalk cleanup to the area from the Schuylkill River and 50th Street between about Spring Garden Street and Woodland Avenue. The UCD, created last summer and funded by a number of area institutions and corporations, including Penn, Drexel University, the Philadelphia University of the Sciences --Eformerly the College of Pharmacy and Science -- and Amtrak, will soon be moving to a spot on the 3900 block of Chestnut Street, just down the block from Public Safety headquarters. The building will house a Philadelphia Police substation.

U.S. marshall kills man in arrest attempt

(05/21/98 9:00am)

Convicted bank robber Philip McCall, 50, was shot three times outside his daughter's house. The Monday killing of a mentally-ill convicted bank robber by a federal marshal just a block from campus has angered his neighbors, many of whom have suggested the killing was unnecessary and racially motivated. Phillip McCall, 50, a black man whose crime record includes a string of bank robberies in March of 1989, died Monday in his daughter's backyard after being shot multiple times by U.S. Marshal Deputy Michael Garwood, who came to McCall's home to arrest him for missing a court date. McCall, who is survived by seven children, had a history of mental illness that his family members trace back to 1989, the same year he pled guilty to robbing four banks after his daughter identified him on a surveillance camera. Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, McCall was not found to be fit to stand for trial on the robberies until five years later in 1994, after receiving extensive psychiatric treatment, according to court documents obtained by The Philadelphia Daily News. According to most accounts of the incident, Garwood, who was not in uniform, confronted McCall in his backyard after he fled through the house to the back upon first seeing the marshal. Carrying a barbecue fork and a nine-inch knife, McCall began charging at Garwood, according to police, and was at an arm's length away from the marshal when he shot him three times, wounding him in the right thigh, the left arm and the left side of the chest. McCall, lying in a pool of blood outside the house, where he had been babysitting his grandchildren, was pronounced dead at 1:20 p.m. His daughter, Phyllis James Brown, was not immediately available for comment, but she told the Daily News that she felt that "it wasn't right the way they killed the man," wondering why Garwood -- presumably aware of McCall's mental condition -- had not simply wounded him. According to a neighbor of Brown's in her 20s, many, perhaps even "a majority of" residents of the townhouse compound where McCall was shot felt the shooting was racially motivated. But the neighbor, who requested anonymity because she did not want her views to be publicly known, said she was "not quick to look at this as a race issue." "I just feel the steps [the marshals] took to apprehend him were overly aggressive," she said. "It seemed like they were shooting to kill." The neighbor added that she felt the marshals should have approached the situation with more caution based on McCall's previous record of mental illness. But if most residents of the neighborhood felt McCall's punishment did not fit his crimes, Lt. Ken Coluzzi, a detective with the Philadelphia Police Department's homicide unit -- which is conducting an investigation into the shooting -- said he expected they would find the shooting to be "justified." Coluzzi, who is involved in the investigation, said that he expected it to conclude by early next week.

Second man arrested in Palestra shootings

(05/15/98 9:00am)

A five-week search by Philadelphia Police in conjunction with the U.S. Marshals Service has yielded the arrest of a second suspect in connection with the March 1 shooting outside the Palestra. Nate Ortiz, 21, of the 1800 block of South Sixth Street in South Philadelphia, was arrested at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday after police spotted him on the roof of a rowhouse on the 500 block of Titan Avenue, police said. Although he went back inside the house upon seeing the police, he did not resist arrest, according to Inspector Jerrold Kane of the Philadelphia Police Department's Homicide unit. Ortiz is one of two men accused of firing the shots that killed North Philadelphia resident Anthony Davis, 22, and wounded three others near the Palestra that afternoon: Jeffrey Noble, 19, who rode with Davis inside his green Lexus; Latisha Feribee, 21, an acquaintance of theirs who was passing by; and College senior John La Bombard, 22, who was struck by a stray bullet while inside the Blauhaus. The incident was the culmination of a long-standing turf war between Davis and his friends, who hail from North Philadelphia, and the South Philadelphia "gang" with whom Ortiz and McLemore, the other suspect in the shooting, associate. Ortiz and McLemore are known to frequent the area of Fifth and Washington streets -- not far from the house where police found Ortiz Tuesday. McLemore, 21, turned himself in on March 16 under the counsel of his lawyer shortly after realizing police had obtained a warrant to arrest him. He was held on all charges at a hearing March 26. Until McLemore's hearing, detectives did not say that Davis had been murdered by two gunmen. But testimony exhibited at the hearing from the Medical Examiner's Office as well as ballistics experts revealed that Davis had been shot by two different types of bullets -- both in potentially fatal places. About a week later, homicide detectives released Ortiz's name. He, like Davis and McLemore, has been arrested several times for drug charges and served a three-month sentence in 1995 for the possession of cocaine with intent to sell. Last year, he was arrested for a robbery. The charges were dismissed after the victim twice failed to show up in court for a preliminary hearing. A drug-dealing charge he received in February is still pending.

U. student killed in Center City

(05/15/98 9:00am)

Wharton doctoral student Shannon Schieber was strangled last Thursday in her downtown apartment. First-year Wharton doctoral student Shannon Schieber, an ambitious young woman who colleagues described as lively and outgoing, was strangled to death by an intruder inside her Center City apartment in the early-morning hours of May 7. She was 23. Philadelphia homicide detectives have launched an intensive investigation into the case, which Inspector Jerrold Kane called "extremely interesting" for its many "possibilities" -- not the least of which is that Schieber may have been killed by a fellow Wharton graduate student who was allegedly stalking her. To students and city residents, Schieber's horrific death was as unusual as it was shocking. At the time of the murder, Schieber was inside a locked apartment. No weapon was used. While police noted that the place was "in disarray" and objects were stolen, burglary was not the apparent motive. And it occurred in an attractive, welcoming street in Center City, where fewer than 3 percent of the city's homicides take place. The murder was so far-fetched that even upon hearing screams coming from Schieber's room at about 2 a.m., a neighbor across the hall allowed police officers responding to his call to leave the scene after inspecting the exterior of the apartment and banging on the door. But when Schieber's brother drove through Philadelphia with the intention of meeting her later that day, events quickly unfolded in a nightmarish sequence. It was about 2 p.m. last Thursday when Sean Schieber, concerned that Shannon had not shown up for their lunch date -- or for her job in Vance Hall -- drove to her apartment near 23rd and Spruce streets, only to find her door locked and no sign of her whereabouts. He then ran into the neighbor who had called police, and together the two scoured the building. Outside, they realized the sliding glass door to her second floor balcony, which is shaded by a tree, was slightly open. Immediately, they began work breaking down the door. Shannon Schieber was nude and lifeless on her bed in a room that had been ransacked. There were "no outward signs" she had been sexually assaulted in any way before her death, Kane said. An autopsy conducted the following day concluded that Schieber's murderer had "manually" strangled her to death. Also last Friday, detectives questioned Yuval Bar-or -- a 28-year-old Wharton graduate student who Schieber said was stalking her -- for 12 hours before releasing him. Schieber had filed a complaint with the University Police Special Services unit against Bar-or, who friends and colleagues said had developed an obsession with Schieber. Repeated attempts to reach Bar-or by telephone this week were unsuccessful. Security guards in his apartment building refused to allow a Daily Pennsylvanian reporter to visit his room. According to one colleague, Bar-or sent Schieber disturbing e-mails and once threatened her life. "She was visibly shaken whenever she talked about it," said the colleague, who asked to remain anonymous. "People are afraid of him." While conceding that Bar-or was the only substantive "lead" detectives have currently unearthed, Kane said he could not "rule out anything." Also, Kane refused to call Bar-or a suspect, saying only that he was "very cooperative" during the questioning. "I wouldn't even say [the murder] wasn't random," Kane said. But detectives could have a much more definitive lead by the end of the week, depending on whether the city's Medical Examiner's Office establishes that DNA evidence acquired at the scene of the crime matches Bar-or. Bar-or, who is currently studying finance at Wharton and living in a high-rise apartment building at 2400 Chestnut Street -- where many other Penn graduate students reside -- told police he was "at home sleeping" when the murder took place, Kane said. Bar-or, like nearly all Israeli citizens, is a former soldier. If he left the building, a security guard might have seen him through the front lobby or one of the four exits its surveillance cameras monitor. But according to security guards at the building, the cameras are not hooked up to VCRs so there are no security tapes from that night. A security guard said he knew Bar-or as a "quiet" student who he had "talked sports" with a number of times and who always made a point of saying "hello." "I hope [the killer is] not him," the guard said. Most of Schieber's colleagues at Wharton -- where she was enrolled in an extremely close-knit, rigorous insurance and risk management program -- refused to comment on her relationship with Bar-or. But three of her colleagues said they were aware of the situation. They emphasized that Bar-or was not her boyfriend but had fixated himself on her. "She might not have been paranoid enough," said one of the colleagues, who recalled Schieber as an assertive, outgoing woman who was very "confident with men." But the individual noted that Schieber -- who grew up in the Washington suburb of Chevy Chase, Md., and graduated in three years with three majors from Duke University in North Carolina -- had a tree leading up to her balcony and no bars on her second-floor windows. Penn Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush would not comment on the nature of the complaint Schieber filed, though Rush did explain the steps police could take for victims of stalkers. "It's not black and white," Rush said of the legal issues surrounding stalking. "There's a subtle threshold of acceptability." She added that many stalking cases do not have the factual potential to rise from the civil to the criminal level. But Rush stressed that police encourage victims to inform them of their circumstances, if merely to attain "priority response" if a situation becomes more serious. "If a minor nuisance escalates, the person shouldn't sit around and wait wondering what the next step is," Rush said, explaining that beyond giving advice and counseling to stalking victims, the Penn Police will also be aware in advance of a stalking situation when and if it becomes graver -- if a student reports it. Unlike the Penn Police, the Philadelphia Police -- whose jurisdiction covers Schieber's former apartment -- were unaware of her circumstances, which Kane said she could have reported to receive a formal restraining order. "But people do all these things and then they get killed anyway," Kane said. Schieber's murder was the first homicide of a Penn employee or student since October 1996, when University biochemist Vladimir Sled, 38, was stabbed to death on the 4300 block of Larchwood Avenue. The last one before that was in August 1994, when a group of teenagers robbed and killed Mathematics graduate student Al-Moez Alimohamed, 27, near 48th and Pine streets. Schieber, who is survived by her parents and brother, was buried Tuesday in Silver Spring, Md., near her suburban Washington, D.C., home.

Relays weekend sees virtually no crime at U.

(04/29/98 9:00am)

A heavy police presence contributed to the relatively quiet weekend. Philadelphia Police Officer Gerald McPhillips spent all night inside the Wawa at 38th and Spruce streets Friday, poised for action on a weekend that has become notorious for bringing mass pandemonium to the store and the entire campus. The convenience store may not have needed his services. The 1998 Penn Relays, a three-day event which was attended by a record 90,000 people, brought with them less crime than a normal weekend on campus --Epleasantly surprising University and Philadelphia police, who have grown accustomed to far more numerous and more serious crimes. Last year, for example, a group of males carjacked a man outside Franklin Field. In 1994, a shooting and stabbing marred Relays weekend. This year, however, only 10 thefts, a burglary and a simple assault were reported to police from Thursday night to Sunday morning. The most serious incident was the discovery of a handgun on the ground near 39th and Sansom streets. Also, Relays weekend came and went without a single robbery. Last year, there were five. The weekend's unusually-calm atmosphere also extended to Wawa. In recent years, food fights and unruly crowds have forced the normally 24-hour store to close temporarily during Relays. This year, for the first time, Wawa management took matters into their own hands, hiring McPhillips, an officer for the Philadelphia Police Department's 18th District, to patrol the store all night. And for the first time in several years, Wawa remained calm, civilized and open the entire weekend. "People just came in, got their sandwiches and left," McPhillips said. "Nothing happened." Moreover, unlike last year, the litter strewn around campus Saturday night had disappeared by Sunday afternoon, thanks to the University City District, which deployed a special cleanup crew so the campus would not remained cluttered until Penn groundskeepers returned to work. Last year, the post-Relays litter plagued the streets through Sunday until Monday morning. As attendance this balmy weekend reached an all-time high, police presence did as well, with the entire University Police force -- nearly 100 officers and detectives -- working overtime shifts during the weekend, as well as a huge presence from Philadelphia Police officers. According to Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush, 77 officers from area police forces -- including the School District of Philadelphia, Highway Patrol and Traffic Control -- patrolled on campus during the weekend, enabling the University to boast a team of officers at every corner. In addition to the security efforts, University Police Det. Commander Tom King attributed the virtually incident-free weekend to the good behavior of those in attendance. "If I was a betting man, I would have lost my house because all the precursors were there for a potentially long night," he added. Lt. Gerard McShea, a supervisor at the 18th District, said he was happy that the weekend was relatively calm on Penn's campus, adding that the district -- which covers most of West Philadelphia below Market Street -- experienced three shootings Sunday and numerous assaults over the weekend elsewhere in West Philadelphia.

Survey: Students feel safe at U.

(04/29/98 9:00am)

If the University has found that the campus enjoys "safety in numbers" -- with $18 million a year worth of police and security guards, for example -- a recent Daily Pennsylvanian poll suggests the money is well-spent. A majority of University students -- 69 percent, a 6 percent increase since last year -- said they feel "somewhat safe" or "very safe" on campus, according to the survey. Conducted over a three-week period ending Sunday, the DP poll surveyed 153 random undergraduates. It has a margin of error of about 8 percent. In addition, 57 percent of respondents said the University should not host the Philadelphia Public League high school basketball championships at the Palestra next year. This year's event, on March 1, was followed by a shooting that killed one man and injured three others, including a University student. Police have maintained that the shooting was unrelated to the game itself, though the event brought two of the suspects and the homicide victim, their alleged target, to campus. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed said Penn should host the event again, while 7 percent weren't sure. Seventy-seven students, or half of those surveyed, said they felt safer in Center City than University City. A little more than half that number, 40 students, said they felt safer in University City, where crimes against persons are higher. According to Lt. William Schmid, who spearheads the Center City District -- an extensive Special Services District established to fight downtown crime in 1991 -- the entire area has seen a 23 percent decrease in serious crime over the last seven years. Penn Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush said she felt confident that University City, too, could see the same type of results Center City has -- especially since the University City District, a similar special services district focusing on quality-of-life issues -- was born last fall. "We're in infancy, and yet we've had amazing results already," Rush said, adding that robberies in University Police jurisdiction, which spans from the Schuylkill River to 43rd Street between Market Street and Baltimore Avenue, have fallen 29 percent from last year as of April 1. King and Rush emphasized that the significantly increased safety measures were "textbook"-like responses to many of the Division of Public Safety initiatives Managing Director Tom Seamon made in his 1996 master plan and later in response to the crime wave in the fall of 1996 that saw the shooting of a Penn student and the murder of University biochemist Vladimir Sled a few blocks from campus. Since then, many initiatives have been instituted to target certain types of crime and increase security, the most significant of which was the hiring of 18 University Police offices last spring, which expanded the force to about 100 officers. Six more officers were hired this spring, and the hiring process continues in what Rush said is an effort to "plan for the future." Since the crime wave, the Division of Public Safety has also expanded the Spectaguard security force, added new lighting throughout campus and moved from a shabby Victorian house in Superblock to a $3.5 million facility at 4040 Chestnut Street. In a trend continuing since last year's poll, 79 percent of students said the University should focus its safety efforts off-campus. But while 59 percent of respondents students said that they would not venture west past 41st Street alone at midnight, the number was down from last year's poll, which reported that 70 percent of students were uncomfortable walking west of 41st Street alone after dark. This year, 23 percent listed the area between 42nd and 44th streets as their midnight limit, while 18 percent said they would comfortably walk even farther. Other results from the poll: · What do students think of the University City District's safety ambassadors, the 27 yellow-jacketed people who perform tasks ranging from giving directions to reporting a crime to police? Twenty-nine percent of respondents rated their "presence and visibility" as "very good" or "excellent." Another 37 percent said they were "good," while 33 percent graded them as "poor" or "fair." · How close to home has crime hit for Penn students? According to the poll, 18 percent of undergraduates have had something stolen while they left it unattended. Seven percent of respondents said their Penn residence had been burglarized. · Of the 121 surveyed students returning to Penn next year, 61 said safety or security was a factor in their decision to live on campus or off campus.

U. Police plan for big Penn Relays weekend crowds

(04/24/98 9:00am)

The 104th Penn Relay Carnival is expected to attract 80,000 runners, spectators and party-goers to campus and feature the best in track and field competition. But along with the throngs and the pleasant weather, this year's Relays, as usual, will likely leave behind streets lined with empty 40-ounce beer and malt liquor bottles and hot-dog wrappers. Traffic will come to a standstill, and the Wawa convenience store at 38th and Spruce streets fearfully anticipates the pandemonium that has forced it to close several times in recent years. And when the University's Division of Public Safety and the Athletic Department join together with the Philadelphia Police Department once again this year to control crowds and enforce order, they hope to ease many of the features that have brought Relays notoriety on campus, Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush said yesterday. This year's Relays weekend promises even larger crowds near campus than in past years, Rush explained, because Dinofest -- the world's largest dinosaur exhibit, currently inside the Philadelphia Civic Center -- will be entering its last weekend just a block from the country's biggest track and field event. Rush added that a critique of last year's Relays security showed several areas in need of improvement. Last year's three-day weekend brought one aggravated assault, five robberies and 19 thefts to campus. Among the incidents was a riot at Wawa. As with last weekend's Spring Fling, University Police officers will rack up massive overtime. All officers must work a minimum of one 12-hour shift during the weekend, and most will work two, Rush said. Dozens of University Police officers working overtime will patrol the Relays themselves at Franklin Field, a step show tonight inside the Class of 1923 Ice Rink and the Busta Rhymes concert in the Annenberg Center's Zellerbach Auditorium tomorrow. This will free up Philadelphia Police officers to concentrate on controlling the crowds and traffic. Significantly increasing its forces from last year, the Philadelphia Police Department will send more than 50 officers -- from both the elite Highway Patrol and Traffic Patrol units as well as the PPD's 18th District -- to campus for the weekend, Managing Director of Public Safety Tom Seamon said. "You can safely say there have been plenty of preparations" arranged with the PPD, Seamon said. At Wawa, employees said the store for the first time was paying for a Philadelphia Police officer from the 18th District to patrol inside the store full-time tonight through early Sunday morning. Last year, about 60 people threw glass bottles, cans and food across the store, prompting managers to shut down the store for two early morning hours on Sunday, April 27. In addition, Rush said she was "very aware and dissatisfied with the quality-of-life issues" including litter-lined streets and vendors' excessively loud boom-boxes. "There is a heightened awareness of how trash and noise make people feel unsafe," Rush said. She added that a Penn parent told her that 33rd Street looked like "a third-world country" when she was driving there Sunday morning last year. The campus was not cleaned up until Physical Plant workers began work again the following Monday morning. To combat the trash problem early in the game, Rush said Trammell Crow Co., which currently manages the University's facilities services, will employ cleanup crews "all day Saturday." Also, groundskeepers from the University City District, formed last summer, will go to work early Sunday morning cleaning up debris.

LCE cites 19 students at Fling

(04/21/98 9:00am)

Undercover agents from the Pennsylvania State Police's Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement cited 19 underage drinkers during last weekend's Spring Fling revelry, according to LCE figures released yesterday. That number is about one-tenth of the 180 citations issued in 1996, the first year Penn administrators invited LCE agents to campus for the year's biggest party weekend. And although fewer than 25 citations were issued during last year's Fling, many attributed that drastic reduction to grim weather. "Fling in general went very well," said Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush, who had said before the weekend began that the LCE was not out to "rain on anyone's fun" or "race" to see how many students they could cite. Citing primarily those who were drinking outside of houses from open containers, at least 10 agents showed up all over campus, including Saturday night's block parties on the 3900 block of Sansom Street and on the 3900 block of Pine Street, where a police officer said he warned students to "take their beer inside the house." For those cited, the penalty is either a Saturday spent in a class learning the dangers of underage drinking or a fine of up to $300 -- in addition to spending much of the summer unable to drive. Whether students choose to pay the fine or take the class, they lose their driver's license for 90 days. "[Losing the license] is the major penalty for underage drinking, at least in my opinion," LCE Supervisor Gary Kardisco said. Students can also contest the citation in court, but according to Kardisco, most choose to take the class because the citation is expunged from one's record afterward. All of the drinkers cited were over 18 years old, Kardisco said. Additionally, he said that while they were primarily University students, he did not have exact figures on the breakdown of citations.

Few crimes mar this year's Fling

(04/20/98 9:00am)

True to Spring Fling tradition, throngs of students made a reluctant but docile police-enforced exodus at 2 a.m. yesterday from campus parties -- including the largest one, a block party on the 3900 block of Sansom Street -- bringing the year's biggest party weekend to a finale. Although this year's Fling was relatively quiet, police still had to deal with a handful of major incidents: a drunken brawl which left a University student with multiple stitches, four University students who were hospitalized for alcohol-related reasons and 10 reported incidents of vandalism. Preliminary figures suggest that the weekend's crime held largely steady with the crime reported the same Thursday-Saturday period last year, during which more thefts and fewer cases of vandalism were reported. "For the amount of people who attended, and the amount of people who were obviously drinking, people were surprisingly well-behaved," University Police Det. Commander Tom King said yesterday. The exact number of citations for underage drinking issued by the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement was not immediately available. In 1996, 180 citations were issued during Fling weekend, while fewer than 25 were given out last year. King said the LCE issued "a few" citations Saturday, but none to his knowledge Friday. In the most serious incident of the weekend, at least seven men badly beat a male University student outside the Class of 1920 Dining Commons on the 3800 block of Locust Walk at about 2:30 a.m., police said. Police have not yet identified the student. Police said alcohol was "a factor" in the incident, which a witness said was preceded by racial slurs and involved people unaffiliated with Penn. College junior Noah Bilenker, the former chairperson of the Undergraduate Assembly, said that when he saw the wheelchair-bound victim at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, the student's face was so badly cut that "even if I knew who he was, I wouldn't be able to recognize him." In addition, three individuals unaffiliated with Penn received citations for disorderly conduct Saturday night and Sunday morning after refusing to cooperate with University Police officers attempting to move crowds off the streets. In one incident, King said a "nastily intoxicated" 20-year-old St. Joseph's University student was trying to steal one of the barricades placed around the northern sidewalk on Sansom Street during the block party. Security guards from St. Joe's picked up the student and transported him back to the West Philadelphia school. The four alcohol-related hospitalizations included an attempted suicide, the second of the weekend, according to police. The first of the two incidents involved a female student, not a male student as initially reported, who drank peroxide Thursday night. In the second incident Saturday morning, the Philadelphia Fire Rescue Squad rushed a female University freshman to HUP after she cut her wrists in an alcohol-related suicide attempt. The student signed herself up for psychiatric treatment at HUP, police said. In another incident early Friday morning, police found a female University student unconscious and lying near the elevator on the 15th floor of High Rise East. She was quickly rushed to HUP, where she admitted to drinking. Friday afternoon, police found a female University student vomiting in a bathroom on the second floor of the Quadrangle's Morris section and rushed her to HUP at about 5 p.m. Slightly more than an hour later, another intoxicated University student was rushed to HUP from the Stouffer Dining Commons after falling down and hitting his head. But overall, the weekend ran smoothly and according to plan, police said. A Saturday night block party on the 3900 block of Pine Street, which residents said was only planned earlier in the day, was tolerated by police for several hours despite its lack of a permit. But at about 11 p.m., officers broke up the party when they were called in to control hundreds of students at the party that spanned the 3900 block of Sansom Street and 39th Street between Sansom and Walnut streets. The 1:30 a.m. pancake breakfast organized by administrators and students drew many students several blocks away to the Class of 1920 Dining Commons. And at 2 a.m., Managing Director of Public Safety Thomas Seamon, Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush and many University Police officers forced a mass eastward exodus of partygoers from Sansom Street, beginning a round of party shutdowns.

Student injured in hit-and-run accident

(04/17/98 9:00am)

A car speeding west on the 3900 block of Walnut Street yesterday afternoon fled from the scene after it hit a College freshman crossing the road, severely fracturing the student's right leg, police said. Gregory Krykewycz, 18, of Langhorne, Pa., was in fair condition last night at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after undergoing surgery to his femur. He had been crossing the street near the Cinemagic movie theater. According to College freshman Megan Sinnot, a friend of Krykewycz's, he will not be allowed out of bed for a week and will be "out of commission" -- and unable to walk -- for several weeks. Sinnot, who spoke to Krykewycz following his surgery, said he was in a "state of shock." University Police Sgt. Laurence Salotti said police had no further information on the incident, which occurred at about 1 p.m. Sinnot said University Police told her they were "trying to piece together" the license-plate number of the vehicle that struck Krykewycz, but had not yet successfully established a number. Detectives with the Philadelphia Police Department's Accident Investigation Division, which usually investigates hit-and-run accidents, said the information on the accident was too vague for them to investigate.

LCE invited to campus for Fling

(04/17/98 9:00am)

Fling may be a tad less funky for underage drinkers. For the third straight year, the University has invited undercover agents from the Pennsylvania State Police's Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement to keep an eye on underage drinking during Spring Fling weekend -- and issue citations with "free reign," Penn officials said. LCE officials have promised Penn that at least 10 agents will patrol campus today and tomorrow, Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush said yesterday. "If they can do more [than 10], there will be more," she said, adding that the LCE will not use heavy-handed tactics. "They're not out here going at breakneck speed to see how many citations they can write," Rush said. "What we're looking for is a decrease in people walking around so totally blasted that they have know idea what's going on around them." LCE officials could not be reached for comment yesterday. Rush explained that the administration's primary reason for inviting the LCE to campus is to prevent the dangerous consequences of over-drinking. Once cited, a student has the choice of paying a $105 fee and attending a class on alcohol awareness or facing a $300 penalty. "We want to make sure that they're not going to the emergency room and being put on respirators, that they're not getting robbed because they've lost all sense of how to navigate city streets," Rush said. "We also want to avoid the combative behaviors we've seen with people who are absolutely totaled." She stressed that "we don't want to rain on anyone's fun." But two years ago, during the LCE's first stint on campus for Fling, many students said they felt it was a different story. Agents issued 180 citations for underage drinking during Fling weekend in 1996 and several students said they were cited for drinking as little as one or two beers. In 1997, by contrast, the LCE issued "fewer than 25" citations over the weekend. Many attributed the sharp decrease to weather that was cold and rainy at times, keeping more students inside. Rain is also expected this year, although the weather does not look to be nearly as dismal as last year's slush. And Rush said she is looking forward to the weekend, particularly because the administration is beginning a new tradition this year: a post-party Pancake Breakfast which will take place at 1:30 a.m. Sunday outside the Class of 1920 Commons. Along with Rush, virtually every member of the University Police will be on hand this weekend -- most of them for extended 12-hour shifts. Days off for the Penn Police have been canceled. As in other years, Philadelphia Police officers will also be present in larger numbers on campus, although Rush said she did not know how many would show up.

Former Spectaguard becomes 'ambassador,' joins U. Police

(04/16/98 9:00am)

Of the new crop of six University Police officers who joined the Division of Public Safety last week, Nicole Taylor will feel the most at home when she hits the streets later this month. That's because Taylor has already walked the streets around campus for a year -- as a Spectaguard walking patrol specializing in the area west of 40th Street. Now no one calls her a "rent-a-cop" anymore. Taylor's superiors have dubbed her an "ambassador." As the first Spectaguard security guard to be trained and hired as a University Police officer under a new Penn initiative, Public Safety officials hope the 26-year-old West Philadelphia native will also serve as a "bridge" between the University Police and Spectaguard, the company the University has contracted with to provide campus security guards since January 1997. Initially, some training and communication problems dampened relations between Spectaguard and University Police, problems that officials have worked hard to address. While officials say relations between the two entities have further improved since the consolidation of police operations with Spectaguard in a new Division of Public Safety headquarters earlier this year, Taylor's promotion marks a type of integration of the two services that is unprecedented. Spectaguard and Public Safety occupied offices several blocks from each other before the two groups jointly moved into the former warehouse at 4040 Chestnut Street the University renovated at a cost of $2.5 million. "The rapport [between police and Spectaguards] could be improved," Taylor conceded in an interview this week. "That all comes with the officers' communication amongst themselves, not with the management." Officials also hope Taylor's new status as a police officer, and a University employee, will lure more security guards to Penn's campus. For a Spectaguard walking patrol earning $10 an hour, the prospect of joining University Police, a relatively small, elite force with better benefits than the Philadelphia Police Department -- including free University tuition -- is quite an attractive one. "I want to absorb all the classes I can," Taylor said, adding that her main interests are law and criminology. And if she has anything to do with it, her 4-year-old son will attend Penn when his time comes, she said. The University's revamped mortgage program encouraging Penn employees to live in the area is also a plus for Taylor, who hopes to buy a house in the Overbrook section of West Philadelphia in the coming years. According to Spectaguard Assistant Vice President Gesi McAllister, who oversees the Penn account, the initiative is part the company's strategy to lure Spectaguards working across the city to consider transferring to the Penn campus. McAllister said she expects two or three walking patrols to be hired by University Police twice a year, based on "superior verbal skills and customer service" and a certain score on their official evaluations. For Public Safety, it also means hiring police who are already knowledgeable about their surroundings. Taylor, who started working for Spectaguard at the Community College of Philadelphia about 18 months ago, said she does not anticipate patrolling as an officer will be "that different" from patrolling as a security guard. "[When] I came to Penn, I knew that in the long run I wanted to become a police officer," she said, adding that she had already applied to become a Philadelphia Police officer when she was approached with the opportunity to work for the University Police. But Taylor, a former cosmetologist who began her security career to avoid the "fluctuating income" of the beauty business, said she never aspired to work in public safety long-term until she became a walking patrol. "I'm really an outside person," she said. "I can't wait to get out again."

Phila. program aims to link welfare recipients, jobs

(04/15/98 9:00am)

Taking a significant step toward dealing with the consequences of Pennsylvania's year-old legislation capping welfare benefits for the unemployed after two years, Philadelphia leaders this week unveiled a massive proposal to find jobs for 15,000 of the city's welfare recipients. The $50.6 million program, called "Greater Philadelphia Works," will target low-income mothers on welfare. Such mothers constitute the vast majority of the 65,000 "heads of household" currently receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the state's welfare program. Instituted in March 1997, the state law limits welfare benefits to a lifetime total of five years and requires recipients to work or participate in a work-related activity for at least 20 hours a week after two years of assistance. The two-year cut-off point is rapidly approaching for nearly 38,000 Philadelphia recipients, but prior to the passage of the law, jobs were hard to find. A federal law went into effect a year ago, essentially ending the current national welfare program -- known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children -- and allowing states to come up with their own laws. In response to the recent changes in the law, officials unveiled Philadelphia Works at a City Hall press conference Monday. The aim of Philadelphia Works, which is organized by the Private Industry Council of Philadelphia -- a nonprofit group which has long received most of the city's federal funds for job training -- is to help the private sector hire welfare recipients. To achieve this, the council will offer businesses generous salary subsidies and require welfare recipients to complete an "Agreement of Mutual Responsibility," a promise to attend job training sessions 10 hours per week. In its first year, the program will rely on the private sector to supply 2,500 to 5,000 current TANF recipients with jobs -- about half of the 7,200 to 10,200 people the program expects to place over the same time period. Another key element of the program is reverse commuting, or sending recipients from the inner cities out to the suburbs -- where more entry-level positions exist -- to work. In a city with a less-than-burgeoning economy, success will largely hinge on the availability of jobs at places like the malls in King of Prussia and Bryn Mawr, as well as on SEPTA, which, according to the plan, will add new routes to accommodate the workers. For the Private Industry Council, the program marks a major expansion -- its budget will more than double -- and also a watershed. In what many saw as a City Hall-driven pre-program transformation of the agency, former President and Chief Executive Officer Patricia Irving took an "extended leave of absence" in early March and was quickly replaced by Rosemarie Greco, the former president of CoreStates Financial Corp. and one of the most influential women in Philadelphia. The city also unveiled a huge advertising campaign Monday portraying black-and-white pictures of black and Latino mothers and their children, who encourage the parents to join the workforce, as part of their efforts to attract mothers on welfare to "Philadelphia Works." "You can do it, Mom," a nameless child plaintively tells his mother in one ad. "You already have the hardest job in the world." In other ads, the children encourage employers to hire their mothers. Rendell told reporters that the program would be advertised on television, radio, billboards and transit posters. "SEPTA's going to donate a lot of space," he joked. Despite the mayor's jovial mood and the "feel-good" messages of the various speeches -- one likened the state to a "land of plenty" due to its budget surplus; another assured the crowd that "if we can do it in Northern Ireland," the task wasn't so daunting after all -- Rendell conceded he didn't "want to delude anyone." The obstacles to the plan's success, after all, are manifold. First, the plan will at best only cover about 40 percent of the heads of household slated to lose their benefits next March. Furthermore, it relies on the cooperation of the private sector, a transit authority threatened by a possible strike and thousands of uneducated or under-educated women. Also complicating the situation is the fact that as many as a third of the targeted population is addicted to drugs, according to Penn Health System Addiction Services Director Robert Forman. "Some of them are in a movie; they're totally oblivious," Forman said. "'Welfare to work' -- it doesn't mean anything to them."

Jobs plan mey hurt addiction treatment

(04/15/98 9:00am)

For Robert Forman, "Greater Philadelphia Works" means he, too, will have more work to do in the coming months. But Forman, who heads the Penn Health System's Addiction Services division, is not involved with the Philadelphia Industry Council, the nonprofit group that will train welfare recipients under the Philadelphia Works program unveiled Monday in anticipation of March 1999. That is the deadline for when 38,000 Philadelphia "heads of household" -- primarily single mothers -- will be required to have jobs in order to continue receiving welfare benefits. Forman's fear is that the work and mandatory job training that the council will offer mothers receiving welfare will interfere with what he has to offer them: drug rehabilitation. "If they go to [job training] classes from nine to four, and then they get here [for rehab] at five and stay until eight, who's going to watch the kids all that time?" Forman asked. He said "Philadelphia Works" will have profound implications for his office and for health systems city-wide. But he stressed that the issue of drug addiction has "not yet been resolved" in the current proposal. City officials were not immediately available for comment on the issue. Forman explained that the council plans to incorporate mandatory rehabilitation into its preliminary evaluations of welfare recipients. But the agency has not yet revealed how it will find a way for effective rehabilitation and job training to work in tandem, nor how it will handle the likely "influx" of drug-addicted women, as many as 20,000 of whom currently live in Philadelphia. Although the Penn Health System boasts one of the largest rehabilitation units in the city, Forman said the outpatient center treats only "125 to 130" addicts -- and that the city's current infrastructure is not likely to be able to handle many more. "[The city] does recognize that there's an issue," Forman said. He said he expects the mayor's office to issue a request for outside proposals to amend the current plan -- a request he said "the University of Pennsylvania will be responding to."

Phi Sig house shut down for major violations

(04/07/98 9:00am)

Phi Sig brothers whiled away their last few hours in the fraternity house. About a dozen Phi Sigma Kappa brothers lingered on the third floor of their now-defunct house at 3615 Locust Walk yesterday afternoon and huddled together as they passed around a bottle of Jack Daniel's -- the last bottle of liquor they would enjoy as active Phi Sig brothers. "And the good Lord, shine the light on you," the newly evicted brothers sang above Mick Jagger's soulful wail as a gallon of Wawa iced tea -- a whiskey chaser -- made its way around the circle, a cigar-smoke cloud billowing above their heads. The men said they were notified shortly before noon yesterday that what InterFraternity Council President Josh Belinfante, an Alpha Chi Rho brother, had called "every fraternity's worst nightmare" had become true. Phi Sig had until 4:30 p.m. yesterday to leave the house. Although they have until Thursday to remove all their belongings, by 4 p.m. yesterday the windows had been boarded up and the locks had been changed. "Fuck OFSA! Fuck nationals!" yelled Engineering junior and former social chairperson Skip Gillilan, decrying the Indianapolis-based national Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity for revoking their charter and Penn's Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs for carrying out such orders swiftly. The infractions: a now-removed link to pornography on the house's Web site and two findings during the last 12 months of kegs of beer -- which are officially banned by the national fraternity --Einside the house. Most of the brothers said the punishment was unduly harsh. "It's no secret that every fucking frat has kegs," said one brother. "We don't rape anyone, we haven't had one person sent to the hospital for anything alcohol-related in my three years here and we just raised over $350 for leukemia," said another. But the biggest bone of contention was the time Phi Sig brothers had to move out. "The fact that they have to move out on such a short notice is absolutely ridiculous," said Belinfante, a College junior, although he emphasized the decision to revoke the house's charter was "not made by OFSA" and that the office had to evict the brothers immediately "for insurance reasons." Brothers, however, resented OFSA's failure to notify them sooner, noting that OFSA knew of the national fraternity's plan to revoke the chapter's charter two days before telling the brothers they would have to leave. "Due process is not OFSA's bag, baby," Wharton junior Jeff Kozloff joked, explaining that he felt the office was acting in self-interest. The University is allowed to evict members of excommunicated chapters almost immediately because of the unique nature of the leases fraternity members sign. Such leases are only valid if brothers are members of a national fraternity.