Philadelphia Mayor John Street and Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson fought a wave of violence last year with a series of initiatives, but nothing slowed the deaths and shootings, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. They have vowed new initiatives, ranging from more surveillance cameras to hundreds more police. Critics, including District Attorney Lynne Abraham, have accused the mayor of being a lame duck who lacks the courage and vision to address the problems effectively. “Do something!” Abraham urged Street. “I mean, here’s a mayor, when our homicide rate and our shooting rate and our robbery rate is way up, who wants to cut my budget again,” she said.
Philadelphia topped 400 murders lst year, which the Inquirer calls “an ominous benchmark untouched since the waning of the crack-cocaine wars in the mid-1990s.” When the city hit a 17-year low for murders in 2002, Street said, “we had the very same police and commissioner,” and the city was using the “same kinds of policing techniques.” Police may have been overwhelmed by a proliferation of guns and drugs, and an increasing willingness, particularly by youths, to resort to violence. Police confiscated 5,007 guns from criminals through Nov. 30, 392 more than in the first 11 months of 2005. With so many other problems facing police, enforcing the curfew had not been a high priority. But curfew violations resulting in summonses were up 4 percent last year. Street believes curfew enforcement is helping and plans to expand it in 2007.