Homicides down sharply in Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA — Homicides in Philadelphia in 2013 are at the lowest midyear total in nearly half a century, police figures show, putting the city within reach of a modern-day low at year's end.
As of Saturday, with two days left in the six-month period, police had recorded 115 homicides, 38 percent fewer than during the comparable period last year.
The half-year figures are a promising sign for a city that in recent years has held the dubious distinction of being the nation's most violent big city.
Mayor Michael Nutter, police officials, prosecutors and criminal justice experts say the decrease in homicides reflects a new emphasis on data-driven policing, a crackdown on gun criminals and reforms in the criminal courts.
In particular, police and prosecutors have targeted hot spots — areas identified as the city's wellsprings for crime.
The fall in homicides reflects a general decline in violent crime. Violent robberies and serious assaults are also down sharply this year.
The count of shooting victims has fallen 18 percent, from 633 victims in the first six months of last year to 518 so far this year.
In an interview, Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey cautiously described the half-year numbers as the results of departmental efforts to attack crime in a smarter fashion.
“There has been a general acceptance of trying to think differently about crime,” he said.
With sophisticated computer mapping and data analysis, Ramsey said, the department has begun to anticipate crime trends and get ahead of them.
“I've been around for a long time, and what (once) passed for analysis was simply counting crime,” he said. “Now, we are actually analyzing crime and trying to learn from that analysis ways in which we can be more effective and tweak our strategy.”
District Attorney Seth Williams said he views the trend as “a sign of hope.”
At the current pace, the annual homicide figure would be lower than at any time since 1968.
An Inquirer analysis of city homicide figures during the past 50 years found that the midyear results generally mirror the second half of the year.
If that holds true, Philadelphia would conclude 2013 with roughly 250 homicides, a modern-era low that would fulfill Nutter's 2008 inaugural promise of cutting homicides up to 50 percent from 2007, when 391 people were killed.
Nutter expressed caution.
“We are not taking anything for granted,” the mayor said. “A half year is a half year. It is not a full year. I am very mindful that we still have to get through the summer and fall. We'll look at this and we'll smile at the numbers for about five minutes and then get back to work.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.