More people are getting killed in Philadelphia, and fewer of those killings are getting solved, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. After two years of historically low homicide numbers, Philadelphia, like many other U.S. cities, saw its murder total climb. There were 277 murders last year, a 12 percent increase from 2014. The rate at which homicides are solved by investigators has dropped. Police made arrests in about 52 percent of killings in 2015. As recently as 2013, the figure was 71 percent. Nonfatal shootings in the city also increased, by 18 percent.
Former Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who left office Thursday, said no single factor explained the increased homicides and decreased clearance rate this past year. A spike in drug-related killings, plus witnesses who are reluctant to come forward, may have played a part, he said. “I’m always sad about the fact that it’s gone up a bit,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s time to panic.” Drug-related killings increased by 55 percent in 2015, Ramsey said. “That’s really something to be concerned about,” he said. He said those killings ranged from drug dealers fighting over turf to people who were shot trying to purchase drugs. It wasn’t yet clear what had caused that spike, he said. Homicides increased in other places last year, in some cases much more markedly than in Philadelphia. Smaller cities such as Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Baltimore – where the per-capita murder rate for 2015 was the highest in that city’s history – saw dramatic spikes, while Chicago and New York saw lesser upticks.