PA Loves Arson: City Vows Revenge on Playground Firestarter(s)
On Sunday, someone—or someones—torched a playground at FDR park. The playgound included pieces unique to accommodate individuals with physical challenges. Mayor Michael Nutter has vowed to rebuild quickly and with some help. But before that goes down, there’s an $11,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the torcher(s), whom Nutter yesterday referred to as “evil.”
With the help of the Philadelphia Eagles and Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, the city will rebuild the $300,000+ playground. A number of organizations have matched the city’s $2,500 reward for information leading to a conviction. Officials have even taken to Twitter to step up the rhetoric.
Yesterday, Deputy Mayor Staff Rich Negrin accompanied a photo of the burned playground with a Tweet that read “Angry @FDRPark playground. Takes a special kind of depravity 2 burn down a playground that serves special needs kids.”
Though Nutter did not Tweet his anger, he did seem pretty pissed at a press conference. He tweeted, “Thanks to the Phila Eagles, we’ll rebuild the plygrd,” though, for his part, Negrin added some anger to Nutter’s cheery online persona, calling Nutter, via Twitter, “Angry.” Johnson alone is donating $100,000. Dude has that sort of cash on hand, apparently.
But don’t expect this sort of thing to end just because. There is a problem: Pennsylvanians love arson.
So much, in fact, Pennsylvania has the highest rate of arson deaths in the nation, at 55 per year. Last year, a bill was introduced in the State Senate that’d strengthen punishments in cases of arson. Accordingly, law offices have taken to dedicating sections of their websites promising a good defense if you’ve been arrested on arson charges. Because, many PA law offices are saying, you’re going to need a good arson lawyer. And because Pennsylvania loves arson.
Senate Bill 903, co-sponsored last year by State Sen. John Rafferty, was introduced to strengthen punishments in arson cases, most notably those that kill. The bill was needed, it was said, because of the 2009 Coatesville fires. It was signed into law in December. Under the bill, “a person can be convicted of aggravated arson if he intentionally starts a fire – or if he aids or pays someone else to start a fire – with the intent to cause bodily injury or knowing that someone was inside the property at the time,” according to Rafferty’s website.
Which means once the torchers are caught, they’re likely to suffer more severe penalties than they would have a year ago. Expect that to happen. Because city officials cannot seem to wait to catch the “evil” that did this.
The $11,000 reward comes from the city’s $2,500, which has been matched by several park advocated and neighborhood groups, including former City Council candidate Barbara Capozzi, who lost a close, contested election against Johnson in 2011.