Serious crime reported in Philadelphia fell last year to levels unseen in decades, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. There were fewer violent crimes than in any other year since 1979, the fewest number of property crimes since 1971, and the fewest number of robberies since 1969. The numbers of burglaries were the lowest on record. Although homicides decreased only slightly compared with 2015, they remained below 300 – once considered a low-end benchmark for Philadelphia – for the fourth consecutive year. Police Commissioner Richard Ross described the results as a step in the right direction but said police would continue seeking to drive the numbers lower. “We’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “Nobody is suggesting anything other than that.”
Ross and criminologists said the decrease was likely driven by a variety of factors, such as increased use of technology in fighting crime, continuing successful deployment and patrol strategies, and an overall crime rate that is lower across the country today than it was 20 years ago. “It’s not a simple answer, and there are probably multiple factors that are interacting with each other,” said Jerry Ratcliffe, a professor of criminal justice at Temple University. Ross added, “We’re not happy with the level of gun violence across the city, period.” Year-end statistics provided by police showed that violent crime – which includes homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault – was down about 5 percent in 2016 compared with 2015. The total number of violent crimes was 15,385, the numbers show, the lowest total since 1979, when there were 14,537. The population of Philadelphia has shrunk during that time, meaning the violent crime rate has actually increased, from 849 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 1979, to about 981 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2016.