The Philadelphia murder total dropped last month, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. In early August, the homicide total was 10 percent higher than the year before – which ended with 380 slayings, the most since 1997. In recent weeks, a significant decline has left the rate just 2 percent above a year ago. The Inquirer calls it “an odd shift, given what appears to be a national rise in violent crime in large and small cities alike, including Washington; Miami; Boston; Detroit; Cincinnati; Orlando, Fl.; Kansas City, Mo.; Las Vegas; and Sacramento and Oakland, Ca. “In many communities across the country, East Coast to West Coast, we are seeing a spike in three major crimes: aggravated assault, robbery and homicide,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. Common factors include increased gun violence and a high number of released felons. In the 1990s, Wexler said, a record number of felons were imprisoned, and they are returning to the streets “not better educated or fully prepared to fit into society.”
In Philadelphia, the number of shooting victims remained 13 percent higher through Aug. 30: 1,330, compared with 1,172 a year earlier. Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson cited a combination of reasons that success may be coming now. Several weeks ago, he launched a Strategic Intervention Tactical Enforcement Unit to work high-crime areas at nights and weekends. He reassigned more police to work nights and redeployed more of the force back to the street. He also pointed to a closer relationship among police, community groups and religious organizations. Johnson did not rule out the possibility that August was an aberration. He has said it was unfair to blame police for the rise in homicides.