As homicide rates in many large cities are dropping, the number in Philadelphia has increased 11 percent since 2004 – one of the sharpest jumps in the nation, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 2005, Philadelphia police recorded 380 homicides. Earlier rises had easy explanations: Gangs. Crack. The economy. Now, “I don’t think anybody could just give an instant answer,” said State Rep. Dwight Evans, a Philadelphia Democrat who has been leading antiviolence efforts.
Seventy percent of Philadelphia’s homicides involved young men in arguments. “ll the change and trends in homicide really have to do with young males,” said James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Boston’s Northeastern University. “They tend to be trigger-happy and tend to be willing to pull the trigger even over trivial issues.” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson and other antiviolence leaders are attacking the homicide problem with proposals to limit handgun purchases, increase the number of police officers on the street, and involve the community in social programs. Johnson promoted 75 detectives and hired new officers who will be used to beef up patrols and launch more in-depth investigations sooner. The strategy is credited with helping to abate killings in Los Angeles.