Acknowledging that the number of homicides in Philadelphia has reached the crisis stage, Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson told the Philadelphia Inquirer that his department alone cannot slow the slayings and maintained that police are unfairly blamed. The problems presented by gun violence need far-reaching efforts that go beyond increasing the size of the force or arresting more suspects, he said. In mid-July there were 21 homicides in 10 days, including five in one day alone. Last year, the city had 380 homicides, the highest since 1997, when 419 people were killed.
Johnson said that police, by themselves, didn’t lower the homicide rate 10 years ago and can’t stop it now. “Policing is the easiest thing to attack,” he said. He noted that federal funding for police departments has all but disappeared and that a worsening economy “causes frustration, and frustration brings aggression.” Last year the city locked up 63,000 people, and confiscated $80 million in drugs and 5,000 weapons. This year police have confiscated $91 million in drugs and 3,100 weapons. The police, he said, are doing their job. This year, Mayor John Street announced Operation Safer Streets, designed to target high-crime areas. Critics say the plan simply isn’t working, as reflected by the crime increase.