Even by Philadelphia standards, three people shot to death and five others wounded by gunfire within about half an hour is a particularly violent stretch, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. That is what happened late Monday night. With the slaying toll at 201, this year’s homicide rate is at least 3.65 percent higher than at the same time last year – and last year’s rate was the highest since 1997, when more than 400 people were killed. “We’re fighting a lot of symptoms instead of the root causes of these problems,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who is in charge of the city’s gun-violence program.
Ross ticked off a litany of reasons for the spike: Too many violent offenders are repeatedly arrested and released from jail; witnesses refuse to cooperate with investigators and thus make arrests difficult; and criminals find guns readily available – and are increasingly willing to use them. Police staffing has declined by hundreds of officers in recent years. Two weeks ago, a Strategic Intervention Tactical Enforcement Unit began patrolling high-crime areas from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekends, when most violent crimes occur. Ross said the unit was never expected to stop violent crime. “Anybody who thinks that the unit is going to be a panacea for this gun violence is out of their mind,” he said.