After Philadelphia’s homicide count for 2006 surpassed last year, Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson said, “If you look at the trend nationally, it’s going up everywhere.” Not everywhere, it turns out, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia’s 6 ppercent rise in homicides ranks in the middle among the nation’s 10 largest cities. The city remains the most dangerous in terms of homicides per capita. Police in New York have recorded 46 more killings through Dec. 10 than through the same period last year, up 9 percent. Only three of the 10 largest cities have seen a significant drop; Los Angeles and Dallas are both down about 6 percent, San Jose, Calif., 10 percent. Chicago’s rate is essentially unchanged.
“Certainly, there is a sense of concern that maybe crime is making a comeback; it never subsided to tolerable levels, even in New York,” said criminologist Andrew Karman of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. What is going on? “The honest answer is, nobody knows,” said criminologist Richard Berk of the University of Pennsylvania. “So many different factors drive the homicide rate that it’s almost impossible to tease out the different ones.” Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, has a theory. “Most active criminals are not active most of the time,” Rosenfeld said. “If they perceive economic conditions as tightening and opportunities for finding legitimate income decreasing, they may be forced to hit the streets and increase their criminal activity.” On an absolute level, Philadelphia remains the most dangerous of the 10 largest cities, with 27 killings per year for every 100,000 residents. Experts say this rank order has to do mostly with the fact that Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate of the 10 cities.