12.17.18: Philadelphia – (Politics): Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney awakes every morning and reaches for the cellphone on his nightstand. He then pulls up the Crime Mapper, a data rich tool hosted on www.PhillyPolice.com which is updated daily, to see what homicides occurred and where.
When the mayor performed this routine on the Monday before Christmas Eve, he saw that Philadelphia stood at 333 homicides, an 11 percent increase over this exact time in 2016, and 33 more murders than the December 17th of 2017.
“I’m disappointed in the numbers,” the Democrat said today, while outside of the Mayor’s Reception Room, where a press conference was underway. “It’s devasting. It’s heartbreaking.”
A December 14th report from the local Fox News affiliate notes that the Philadelphia Police Department hasn’t seen a murder rate this high since 2007. Eleven years ago, Philadelphia averaged one murder a day, a damning statistic which earned the big city the nickname Killadelphia.
According to the aforementioned Fox29 News report, the city is currently averaging a murder every 26 hours. Some would say then it’s fair to dust off that old and unflattering nickname.
“I reject that,” Mr. Kenney retorted when I presented him with that very real possibility.
The mayor said the moniker Killadelphia implies a uniqueness to gun violence that’s exclusive to Philly. He cited persistent gun violence in Chicago as proof that Philly hasn’t cornered the market.
Of course, Philadelphia isn’t the only city to be tagged with a nagging moniker.
Baltimore, Maryland, whose nickname in 2007 and 2008 was Bodymore, Murderland, had the worst homicide rate among the nation’s 50 largest cities in 2017 and the second-highest violent crime rate overall, according to new data from the FBI.
And Chicago, which has been called Chiraq, saw its murder rate increase significantly in 2015 and 2016, but declined by 12.3 percent in 2017. However, the murder rate there is still more than 60 percent above 2014 levels, according to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice, which looked at the murder rates for 29 of the 30 largest cities in the US, as well as the crime rates for 19 of the 30 largest cities.
The Brennan Center report suggests that the murder rate for 2018 is projected to be 7.6 percent lower than 2017, largely due to sharp declines in San Francisco (-35.0 percent), Chicago (-23.2 percent), and Baltimore (-20.9 percent).
In Philadelphia, violent crime peaked in 2006 and has since been in decline. According to PPD, violent crime is down by 33% compared to its peak in 2006. And the overall trend of gun violence and shooting victims follows the same trend, with their peaks in 2006 at about 8,800 gun-violence incidents and 1,850 shooting victims. In 2017, there were about 4,900 violent crimes committed with guns and 1,222 shooting victims; this represents a 44% and 34% reduction from the peak in 2006, respectively, the PPD notes.
And yet, these statistics are lost on a lot of the residents here who simply see a city in crisis: more than a quarter of the city’s residents live below the poverty line, hunger has gotten worse in Philadelphia over the last six years, and, as said by Mr. Isaiah Thomas when he, last week, announced his 2019 candidacy for City Council At-Large, “black children are dying.”
It’s no coincidence that hunger is increasing, as is the murder rate, the mayor said.
“It’s all about poverty. We’re doing all we can to address these poverty issues,” Mr. Kenney told me today.
The last time the murder rate average in this city neared once a day, an incoming mayor named Mr. Michael A. Nutter planned to rely aggressively on stop-and-frisk to reduce it. Mr. Kenney, however, said he wants to avoid “overly aggressive” policing.
“I don’t want to have a police department that’s stopping everyone on the street,” the mayor said.
So, then what’s the plan? Well, we will all have to wait until early January to find out.
On September 27th, 2018, Mayor Kenney called on his cabinet and senior leadership to develop a plan to dramatically reduce the killings and shootings in Philadelphia. That plan will arrive to the mayor’s desk on the 5th of January, according to a report released Monday that analyzed the community-based violence prevention programs funded by the city in FY17.
The City of Philadelphia in 2017 spent more than $13 million in FY17 with approximately 40 organizations. And the services most offered were typically case management and counseling. But the report also found that the City is very unlikely to serve youth, between the ages 15 to 17, or young adults, between the ages of 18 to 34, who are at the highest risk of killing someone or being killed.
“Most of the programs provide services that address some of the risk factors that increase the likelihood a person may become violent, but very few programs appear to actively engage the people, particularly the young adults, who are most likely driving the violence in their communities,” the report states.
Many of the young adults who are driving the violence in communities will soon be hearing on the streets a message of peace. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross this Wednesday will join anti-violence activists at Splittin Wigz, a West Philadelphia barbershop, at 10 am to announce Peace Weekend, a direct-action campaign and public awareness tour of the city made possible by a mass collaboration.
It is collaboration, after all, that’s Philadelphia only real hope, according to the mayor.
“The state is not helping us… the federal government isn’t helping us… We’re swimming on our own,” he said.
Thanks for reading! Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® and I’m Drumming for Justice!™
Christopher “Flood the Drummer®” Norris is an award-winning journalist, online content producer and professional drummer currently serving as the CEO of Techbook Online, a Philadelphia-based news and event company, and the host of the Drumming for Justice podcast. Subscribe here.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) speaks to local news media following a press conference. Photo Credit: C. Norris – ©2018
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