Philadelphia’s Safe Streets a Winner in Most Areas

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Philadelphia’s much-heralded $35 million Safe Streets program has been credited for a 13 percent drop in crime citywide. For many of Philadelphia’s poorest neighborhoods, the year-old program has paid off: Crime has dropped significantly, the Philadelphia Inquirer says.

The Inquirer analyzed violent crime separately from property crime. The district-by-district analysis showed that property crime fell everywhere and that violent crime plummeted in Philadelphia’s most troubled areas. It also revealed that violent crime hasn’t gone down in a third of the city, including parts of Center City and middle-class sections of South and Northeast Philadelphia.

The numbers suggest what critics had predicted: that by shifting police resources to high-crime districts, other areas of the city might suffer or fail to share in the benefits of the controversial program. Citywide, violent crime fell 5.8 percent since Safe Streets began in May 2002. That was only a slight improvement over the 5.5 percent fall in such crime in the year before the program was launched.

“Most high-crime areas in most cities are under-policed,” said Lawrence Sherman, who directs the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania. “Putting the police where the crime is is the most basic principle of crime prevention. To the extent Safe Streets has done that, it may have created a fairer system.”

Top police officials, including Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, said that it was unrealistic to expect that crime rates in Center City could fall lower, after what one aide called “the phenomenal drop in crime” there in earlier years.


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