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CRISIS IN KENSINGTON: Resident says neighborhood 'given to the wolves,' begs people to stop feeding addicts

This is the sixth story in a series about the open-air drug market in Kensington. Read the first, second, third, fourth and fifth parts.

PHILADELPHIA – Giving food and providing other services to drug users in Kensington, a well-known open-air drug market in the City of Brotherly Love, only encourages dealers and perpetuates addiction, a local activist told Fox News.

“The best way I can describe Kensington is it’s a war zone,” Dennis Payne said. “Kensington was given to the wolves, and the wolves are running with it.

Payne spoke in front of McPherson Square, locally known as “Needle Point Park, where everything drug-related is taking place.” The activist started the EyE of Kensington Facebook group, which acts as a sort of message board for the neighborhood.

KENSINGTON’S ADDICTS ARE ‘YOUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS.’ WATCH:

CRISIS IN KENSINGTON: A neighborhood ‘given to the wolves’ Video

WATCH MORE FOX NEWS DIGITAL ORIGINALS HERE

“It’s a dead land,” Payne said. “There’s no good anything here anymore in Kensington. It’s all slowly dying.”

The community has become internationally known for its rampant open-air drug use and sales. The sidewalks are lined with addicts doped up and sprawled out, needles lining the concrete.

“Most people in this area have some kind of mental [or] physical [disability] or drug addiction,” Payne told Fox News. “What you’re seeing is the results of a very rough life.”

But the activist believes much of the welfare, like food handouts, encourages more drug use.

Kensington activist stands by needle park

Dennis Payne, a Kensington activist, fears that feeding addicts is only encouraging more drug use in the neighborhood. (Fox News)

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“By feeding these people, you’re giving the other people cover to do their thing, to keep these people addicted,” Payne said. “And that’s the system that’s got to stop. There’s got to be some kind of break in the system.”

“These guys are the guys, for youse Christians, you’re supposed to be out here getting them shelter, not giving them a tuna fish sandwich,” he added.

Payne also said services in Kensington attract more addicts since they see they can receive local welfare, freeing up whatever money they can scrape together for open-air drug purchases and use.

“They see all the services coming here,” he told Fox News. “So they migrate here.”

Philadelphia drug addicts line the sidewalk

Addicts line a wall in Kensington. One sways as seems to struggle to remain standing. (Fox News Digital)

PHILADELPHIA’S OPEN-AIR DRUG MARKET IS ‘A THIRD-WORLD COUNTRY,’ FORMER RESIDENT AND ADDICT SAYS

“They need to be taken care of and taken off the streets,” Payne continued. “There’s no reason for somebody who’s mentally and physically disabled to be out here doing drugs.”

And addicts aren’t the only ones suffering in Kensington. Payne pointed to the crimes addicts commit to “get the money to get the drugs.”

“They’re breaking all kinds of laws,” he said. “I don’t need to tell you what they’re doing. Just look at our police logs.”

Kensington had among of the worst violent crime and drug crime rates in the city over a 30-day period ending April 24, according to data compiled by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Vape, rubber ties, needle cap next to addict

A vape and rubber ties lie next to a passed out addict. The cap to a needle can also be seen. All are common sights in Kensington. (Fox News)

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Neighborhood-specific information is limited, but Kensington’s average income per capita was half the citywide average salary for 2012-2016, while the violent crime rate was 30% higher, Drexel University reported in 2019.

Meanwhile, crime and rampant drug use aside, Kensington is still a neighborhood like any other with families who live, work and play in the community.

“There’s children that live there that have to walk over bodies to go catch the bus, to go to school, to go to the library,” Frank Rodriguez, a recovering addict and former Kensington resident, previously told Fox News. “There’s people that are hostage in their own homes in that community.”

Narcan kit hangs in Philadelphia

Opioid overdose kits containing naloxone — commonly referred to as Narcan, its — hang from a metal support in Kensington. (Fox News)

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Still, Payne makes clear that Kensington needs help.

“You shouldn’t be afraid, America, to come down here,” he told Fox News. “It’s your sons and daughters that are out here.”

“A lot of these people are even grandparents who are out here that are smoking crack, that are doing heroin,” Payne said.

To hear more from Payne, click here.

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