After a double homicide in West Philadelphia early yesterday, Mayor Street and Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson huddled in City Hall with other high-ranking officials, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Homicides surged last year, with 380 people killed – the most since 1997, when more than 400 people were killed. This year has had a bloody start, with 18 people killed in the first 18 days. Johnson and Street have been talking about reversing the trend since last year, when the rising murder rate resulted in negative headlines.
In November, Johnson started deploying more police on South Philadelphia streets, getting help from other city offices, and asking federal authorities for resources. Even as crime has continued to climb, police have duplicated these efforts on a smaller scale in some of the city’s other tough neighborhoods. Street is working on a broad-based response that includes police, social services, and clergy. It mirrors Johnson’s belief that police alone cannot solve the problem. The city last detailed a new approach to tackle the surge in gun violence in August. Street announced that 700 police officers would be shifted to a new bureau in the Police Department that would focus on violence and crime control and be led by Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr.