Responding to a spike in gun violence and homicides this year, Philadelphia Mayor John Street is shifting 700 police officers into a new unit overseeing violence and crime control, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. “In my discussions with the police commissioner, we decided that we have to do better,” Street said. He named a new deputy commissioner to lead the Department of Violence and Crime Control, Richard Ross, a 16-year Police Department veteran who had been commander of the Homicide Unit. More than one out of every 10 of the department’s 6,700 uniformed officers will report to him.
Said Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson: “What we are doing today is being more proactive to go out there to prevent crime, not just solve crime after it’s happened.” As of yesterday, there had been 213 reported homicides in Philadelphia this year, compared with 186 for the comparable period last year. “I never heard of a title like that,” said Prof. Eli Silverman of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York of the “violence and crime control” label. “You would think that would be inherent in what the police are trying to do.” Silverman added: “If, in fact, it results in integrating and harmonizing the people who need to work together who previously may have been separated by organizational turf issues, that’s a plus. If it’s just a way to give certain people pay increases, that’s different.”