Philadelphia Enterprise Reporting Awards: Top 10 Drug Corners (Shame of the City)

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Top 10 Drug Corners (Shame of the City)

Freelancer Steve Volk followed up his 2007 report, locating and ranking the top 10 drug-selling corners in the city with a new report on the most active drug-trafficking spots. An abridged article (3,000 words) ran as the Aug. 24, 2011, cover story in Philadelphia Weekly. The full 11,000-word version ran the same day on Phawker. com and was edited by Phawker founder Jonathan Valania.

"The locus of the most heavily trafficked drugs corners is constantly shifting in reaction to supply and demand, police activity and internecine turf warfare. If one corner is not active at the moment, then the action most likely lurks around the next corner or will be heading this way awfully soon."
- Steve Volk, freelance reporter

Steve Volk reports: “Philadelphia is awash in the narcotics trade. And like all illicit economies, the drug trade begets a brutal gangsterism whose stock in trade is violence – violence on an industrial scale. The statistics are as astonishing as they are appalling. ‘We’ve had 16,000 shootings here in the last 10 years,’ says Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Reed. ‘Sixteen thousand!’ That averages out to four Philadelphians being shot every day, or one citizen every six hours. Since 2008, more Americans have been murdered in Philadelphia than killed in Iraq. In other words, we have the equivalent of an undeclared shooting war raging semi-visibly in the city’s most desolate and depleted neighborhoods.

“ ... First, there is so much drug dealing in the city – and the mechanics and geography of the drug trade is so fluid – that narrowing it down to the top 10 corners is a fool’s errand: It could well be 20 corners, or 50 or 100. Furthermore, even the most extensive combination of face-to-face interviews, boots-on-the-ground surveillance and crunching of arrest stats will at best result in a snapshot of a moment in time, and the enduring accuracy of that resulting picture is debatable. The truth is that the locus of the most heavily trafficked drugs corners is constantly shifting in reaction to supply and demand, police activity and internecine turf warfare. If one corner is not active at the moment, then the action most likely lurks around the next corner or will be heading this way awfully soon.”

"Phawker 'logged more than 30,000 direct hits from visitors looking for the unabridged version.' "
- Jonathan Valania, founder of Phawker

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Valania said he didn’t have much luck getting any of the city’s TV stations or newspapers to pick up on the report. However, he said it did “spark a lot of interest with readers.” PW published 100,000 copies, most of which were snapped up. And Phawker “logged more than 30,000 direct hits from visitors looking for the unabridged version,” he said.