City officials gathered today to give an update on the Nutter administration's seven-point crime prevention plan announced in late January.
"What we are doing is working. We're holding ourselves accountable to commitments we've made," said Mayor Michael Nutter. "But there is still a lot of work to be done."
As far as prevention and enforcement, a police class of 55 cadets will graduate tomorrow, with classes of 30 graduating June 15 and July 27. Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said that the officers will be deployed on foot patrol to the city's most violent neighborhoods, especially those in the 25th and 22nd Districts.
"The plan is beginning to make a huge difference," Ramsey said. Operation Pressure Point 2.0 will launch on April 13 and run until Nov. 1. The city has identified 12 police district as "hot zones" where the most violent crime occurs and will coordinate with state and federal partners to police them more fully. Officers will be redeployed starting May 1 from administrative and other duties to be back patrolling the streets, Ramsey said.
The number of surveillance cameras is also increasing – 50 additional cameras will be installed in the 49th and 39th police districts by Sept. 30th and the Department has issued a bid to repair the 71 police surveillance cameras that are broken.
Furthermore, May 1 will mark the start of the SafeCam Business Incentive Program, through which business owners in commercial corridors of targeted high crime areas will be reimbursed 50 percent, or up to $1,000, for surveillance camera systems they install. "Surveillance cameras are a tool for police officers, but they are also a deterrent, " Nutter said.
Nutter also stressed the importance of community involvement in police work. Since Channel 64 began airing Philadelphia's 100 most wanted, 21 of them have been arrested, he said. The police's telephone and email tip lines have received over 700 tips since Jan. 26, the date the mayor announced the plan and the Department's text tip line will become operational in April.
Since the $20,000 reward announced for homicide cases was announced, those eligible for the reward money have come forward with fruitful information in seven to 10 such cases, Ramsey said.
The mayor also announced that he will meet with anti-violence program providers at St. Joseph's University on April 21 to decide on consistent metrics to measure the level of violence in the city and ways to reduce it.
The District Attorney's Office has also made strides, especially in dealing with cases involving illegal weapons. "The level of gun violence in this city is unacceptable," said District Attorney Seth Williams. "We heard Philadelphians when they said they were scared and wanted the government to step in and help." He said that, for the first time in the city's history, his office is sharing information about offenders in real time with the police department.
Williams also said that, since the mayor's January announcement, his office has been asking for higher bail for people arrested with illegal guns. Consequently, there was a 22.6 percent increase in the number of arrestees with illegal gun charges who were held for pretrial detention in Jan. 2012, compared with Jan. 2011, and a 16.5 percent increase in February of 2012 compared with February 2011.
Williams said that he was optimistic that, in moving forward, the changes the plan inspired his office to make will result in a real, measurable difference in the level of violent crime, though the homicide rate is currently still roughly the same as it was this time last year.