Rat City: Crime's Undeclared War Against Us All

Excerpt: The other evening, I was walking home around 10 p.m. along Philadelphia's much ballyhooed Avenue of the Arts, a pricey cultural corridor formerly known in its less glitzy days as South Broad Street, when a guy turns to me, incredulous. "I just slid on a dead rat," he proclaims, pointing to the icky deceased rodent at his feet. This is on a well-lit stretch of prime downtown real estate a few short blocks from City Hall. Yes, indeedy, the bloody, mangled corpse of a rat on the sidewalk, not far from the gleaming curved brass balustrade at the front entrance to the stuffy, members-only, hoity-toity red brick Union League. Perfecto!

This, in turn, is four blocks from where a much-beloved 30-something Starbucks manager was just surrounded, attacked and beaten to death, a day after the rat's demise, by a quartet of hooky-playing high school students. "Well, cities are dangerous places in the dark. You know I don't like you walking around at night," says my fond friend, "Freddy from Fresno," not his real name, doing his level best to be protective. Except, I point out to "Freddy," this unfortunate murder didn't happen at night. It occurred in the middle of a weekday afternoon, broad daylight in a major American metropolis, a block from City Hall.

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