With shootings increasing in Philadelphia despite a broad array of anticrime initiatives, teams of four retired city detectives and a prosecutor will hit the streets starting today with the aim of attacking illegal gun trafficking, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The first team will work in the Southwest Division, where 28 percent of the city’s homicides have occurred this year. Gun violence in Philadelphia has been called epidemic, with 86 percent of this year’s 375 homicides involving handguns. Through mid-November, the city had recorded 1,744 gunshot victims. Said District Attorney Lynne Abraham: “We think that having a city of Philadelphia which has a homicide record as ours to be not only unacceptable but disgraceful.”
The new anti-gun-trafficking program is being paid for by a $5 million grant obtained by State Sen. Vincent Fumo. “All too often people dealing in illegal guns quite frankly feel, and with some justification, that it’s a high-reward, low-risk crime,” he said. The former detectives, who have been sworn in as investigators for the state attorney general, will find out who is in custody for gun-related crimes and determine whether they could lead to gun traffickers. If the program appears to be working, it will then be rolled out in other divisions every six weeks until the entire city is covered.