Philadelphia Mayor John Street, facing the prospect of another violent year, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he plans expanded efforts to combat truancy and curfew violations as a way to stem the violence. Candidates to succeed Street are rolling out their own crime-fighting plans, which often contain implied criticism of the mayor. Former City Councilman Michael Nutter has pledged to declare a crime emergency in crime-plagued neighborhoods on his first day in office. Street says declaring a state of emergency would be “a tragic and unfortunate error” because it would damage the city economically and set police-community relations back by decades. A declaration would tell residents, Street said, that “you’re less free in this neighborhood than other neighborhoods.”
Street also derided calls for massive increases in the number of police hires and police surveillance cameras, saying that proponents do not understand, or are not being honest about, how prohibitively expensive those actions would be. U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah has proposed putting up 1,000 crime cameras within 8 years. The city has 18 cameras now. Crime has become the top issue in the mayoral campaign because of the surge in shootings and killings since 2002, when the city had reached a 17-year low with 288 homicides. Last year, Philadelphia had 406 homicides. There have been 26 slayings in 2007 through Tuesday, compared with 16 for the same period last year.