Already poised to top 300 slayings, Philadelphia is on track to have its worst year of killing since 1997, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. At the current pace of more than one homicide a day, the city would reach nearly 380 killings by the end of the year. There were 326 in 2004. The increase comes as totals in some other major cities remain flat or are declining.
As reported yesterday on Crime & Justice News, some city officials focus on the easy availability of guns as the major culprit. There may be other causes. The police department has lost more than 500 officers out of 7,000 through retirements and budget cuts. Criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University suggested that after many cities began to see historically low crime statistics in the late 1990s and early 2000s, they shifted their focus away from crime fighting and prevention. “You can’t get complacent,” Fox said. In explaining the crime drop of the 1990s, criminologists often cited the booming economy, the waning of drug violence, more offenders’ being locked up, and improved policing. While some of those trends are reversing, some major cities have been able to keep their numbers low. In Philadelphia, C.B. Kimmins, an anticrime activist, cited what he called a “movement” in some neighborhoods of people who refuse to cooperate with police to help solve shootings and other crimes. He called it a “concerted effort on the part of the thugs to keep everybody in line.”