When Michael Nutter takes office as Philadelphia mayor on Jan. 7, he will face a crime wave that has left at least 355 people dead so far this year. The toll gave Philadelphia the highest homicide rate of any big city in the U.S. last year, with 406 killings – more than New York City, which has six times the population, says the New York Times. Crime is clearly the biggest challenge facing the new mayor. It is also the reason for his surprise victory. A year ago, Nutter, 50, a former city councilman, was a little-known candidate with a controversial plan to reduce crime who was working 20-hour days, handing out Nutter Butter cookies to voters in a desperate effort to climb out of fifth place in a five-man race.
Now, he has been called the Seabiscuit of urban politics, having beaten two congressmen, a veteran state legislator and a billionaire businessman in the Democratic primary in May before taking the general election on Nov. 6 by a four-to-one ratio, the largest the city has seen since 1931. Nutter distinguished himself with aggressive plans to declare crime emergencies in the city's most violent neighborhoods, which could allow the police to close streets or set curfews. He also offered plans for an increased use of “stop, question and frisk” tactics to confront anyone the police suspect is carrying an illegal weapon. Responding to concerns by opponents about the risk of civil rights abuses and racial profiling, Nutter said, “My view is that people also have a civil right not to get shot.” He said, “Crime here is an economic problem, it's an education problem, it's a public safety problem and it's something that we're going to have to aggressively tackle.” He favors an annual tax credit of up to $10,000 for each ex-offender a business hires for up to three years. Raised in a gritty section of West Philadelphia by his mother, Nutter went to the University of Pennsylvania before becoming an investment manager focused on public finance. He was on the City Council from 1992 to 2006.