Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey set a goal to reduce last year’s total of 392 murders by a quarter, to 294 in 2008. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that he city’s 294th homicide was recorded 7 1 /2 weeks before year’s end, on Sunday afternoon. Although homicides and violent crime are down, the decline has not kept pace with Nutter and Ramsey’s targets. Homicides are down about 15 percent, not 25 percent, and violent crime, which Nutter had aimed to reduce by 20 percent, is down only about 4 percent. “I didn’t think we’d have any miracles,” Ramsey said.
With the economy worsening, and budget cuts threatening police overtime shifts that paid for targeted enforcement tactics over the summer, Philadelphia may be hard-pressed to keep pushing down crime rates. “I think this is the cloud before the crime storm,” said Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University. “It’s predictable that property crimes and violent offenses will rise as the economy worsens.” Lawrence Sherman, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Jerry Lee Center of Criminology, said that crime trends are influenced by many causes and that patterns are not reversed quickly. “The causes of crime in Philadelphia are very deeply rooted and will take some time to fix,” said Sherman, who expressed hope that Barack Obama’s administration would boost founding for after-school programs that keep youths off the streets.