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Philly Shrug Hits SEPTA

PHILADELPHIA -

You've seen it -- the reaction you get when you talk about the city's problems. One writer calls it the "Philly Shrug."

Now, SEPTA's transit police chief is complaining about the issue. Last week, one of his officers got into a struggle with a suspect. Chief Thomas Nestel says no one helped his officer. Shortly after, he tweeted, "He couldn't get to his radio. What I want the public to do is call 911. No one called."

Nestle also tweeted, "Officer not injured but disheartened and frustrated. In uniform protecting public who walked by when he needed help."

In an interview with FOX 29 on Sunday, Chief Nestle explained further, "The Philly Shrug is something that we need to beat down."

Sometimes, says Chief Nestle, law enforcement officials need the public's help.

"I'm not looking for anybody to endanger their welfare," explains Chief Nestle. "Just get on the phone and dial 911."

Philadelphia is a passionate city. Go to any Eagles game, you'll see fans bleed green.

So, why does that passion disappear when we try to confront big issues?

Helen Ubinas, a Philadelphia Daily News columnist, noticed the apathy immediately.

"People would just shrug and say, 'Eh, that's the way it's always been,' and it drove me crazy," Ubinas said.

So, Ubinas wrote about it in a Daily News column back in March. But she's hoping to do more. She's starting a movement she's calling "No Philly Shrug."

"It's about raising awareness and getting folks to care about issues that they can really change," Ubinas explained.

She and the guys at "Airtime Airbrush" in the Gallery created T-shirts with the words "Philly Shrug," surrounded by a red circle and a red line right through the center.

Ubinas is betting if you notice the T-shirt, you might think about what it means.

"When did you stop caring?" Ubinas questioned. "When did the 'why' become 'whatever?' When did you start shrugging?"

Sure, Ubinas knows trash and other problems have been around for decades. How can one person fight urban blight, especially in a city plagued by crime.

"Sometimes just mentioning the fact that, 'Hey, pick that trash up,' could cost you your life," Brown told FOX 29.

Jordan Santiago explained it differently.

"People don't want to fight losing battles," Santiago said.

Ubinas says the battle does not have to be unwinnable. Start small.

"Put the shoulders down, put the chest out, and say, 'I think I can make some sort of change here,'" Ubinas offered. "And by the time we realize it, we're going to make a lot of changes in the city."

Omar Brown is realistic: "It's not going to happen overnight.  But as long as someone's starting the wheels turning."

FOX 29 asked Brown if he has hope?

"Yeah, yeah. I have kids too. So, I want to see the world that they grow up in a little bit better than the one I grew up in."

So, maybe you sweep your sidewalk tonight. And maybe your neighbor follows your example and does the same thing tomorrow. Before you know it, your block is cleaner, and maybe you're not shrugging as much anymore.

Let's hope.

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