So far this year 56 people have been slain in Philadelphia, a 40 percent increase over the first two months of 2010, reports th Philadelphia Daily News. The year’s homicide tally is the highest by this point of the year since 2007, when Mayor Michael Nutter campaigned on a promise to halve the murder rate within five to seven years. The homicide total had been progressively declining year after year until a string of violent weekends this year resulted in multiple shooting deaths.
Police, academics and city officials caution that it’s too early to draw any conclusions about the year’s murder rate. Jerry Ratcliffe, a Temple University professor of criminal justice, said, “It’s too early in the year to be talking about any type of conclusions.” Mayoral press secretary Mark McDonald said yesterday that safety is Nutter’s top priority. McDonald pointed to the bigger picture: homicides fell 22 percent between 2007 and 2010 and violent crime is down 13 percent since the mayor took office. The economy’s impact on the city finances resulted in two canceled Police Academy classes and monthly reductions in the police force. Nutter is asking the City Council for money to pay for 120 officers to deal with the attrition that has plagued the police department.