A new study says that an increasing number of people shot in Philadelphia have had previous brushes with the law, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Twenty-four percent of shooting victims last year had pending criminal court cases against them at the time they were shot, according to a report by researchers with the Philadelphia Adult Probation and Parole Department. In 2002, 18 percent of shooting victims had “open bills” against them. Thirty percent of gun-homicide victims last year had pending criminal cases at the time they were killed, up from 20 percent in 2003.
The data show that in a city of nearly 1.5 million in which 406 people were killed last year; there have been 221 killed this year; violence is largely confined to the city’s impoverished quarters. The Adult Probation and Parole Department this year created the Strategic Anti-Violence Unit, which will target about 75 offenders thought to be the most likely to commit homicide, based on predictive modeling done by the University of Pennsylvania’s Jerry Lee Center of Criminology. The unit’s clients receive cognitive behavioral therapy, job counseling, drug treatment, and home visits. “By focusing on the cases most likely to commit the most serious offense – homicide – the APPD now has access to what may be the most advanced risk-assessment tool in the country,” said Lawrence Sherman, director of Penn’s criminology program.