BORN-AND-RAISED Philadelphian Danielle Harvey never really saw herself moving away from her hometown.
Then, last spring, she witnessed a shooting at the same bus stop where she had been robbed about a month before.
Harvey, 24, who worked at a law office in Center City, said that she was able to shake off the robbery, in which her phone was stolen and pockets rifled through at a bus stop outside Frankford’s Margaret-Orthodox El station.
“You live in the city, this stuff happens,” she said. “That made me think this city is getting a little tiring to live in, but I never really imagined myself being somebody who could move.”
Then, about a month later, as she waited at the same bus stop, a man across the street from where she stood was shot in the neck.
“[The shooting] was pretty much the thing that more or less sealed it for me thinking I should get out of here,” she said.
With that, she packed up in October and moved to California, where she now lives and works outside San Francisco.
Decisions like Harvey’s are daggers to city officials who point to the city’s significant progress in reversing the historical brain-drain of educated young adults from Philadelphia.
A mixed bag
In a testament to the city’s progress over the years and efforts to retain young, educated adults, recent census numbers have shown an uptick in both the numbers of young adult residents and residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Some young people say that the quality of life the city provides far outweighs concerns about crime.
“I can’t imagine where else I would want to be with all the convenience for the kids,” said Otis Bullock, 34, a lawyer who lives in Strawberry Mansion with his wife, also a lawyer, and two young sons.
Harvey, however, isn’t alone among young adults for whom crime became a reason to leave the city.
Anthony Coombs, 32, left his house in Queen Village in January to start fresh in Santa Monica, Calif. He said his last straw was seeing how the life of his good friend Kevin Neary changed drastically after Neary was shot during a robbery outside his Northern Liberties apartment in 2011. The shooting left Neary paralyzed at age 29.
“This stuff is a citywide issue and problem,” Coombs said the week before he moved. “I think it’s just embarrassing that New York has eight times the amount of people and their murder rate is so much lower than ours.”
Indeed, the per-capita homicide rates in both New York and Chicago are lower than Philadelphia’s. In 2012, Chicago had 19 homicides per 100,000 residents, and New York had five. In Philadelphia the same year, 22 people were slain per 100,000.
So far in 2013, though, homicides in Philadelphia are at the lowest they’ve been at this point since at least 2006.
Coombs, who grew up in Florida, came to Philadelphia for college and decided to stay after he graduated. He said for his career working with startups, he’d probably be better off staying, but between the violence and a perceived apathy about it among some people in the city, he couldn’t stay any longer.
“There’s a normal expectation of violence in a large city, but we’ve gotten to the point where it’s so bad that people are like, ‘Well, there’s nothing we can really do about it, so we’re just going to live with it,’ ” he said. “No. We shouldn’t put up with this crap.”