With 236 homicides in the city on record as of Sunday, 2013 could end with the lowest number of homicides since 1967, based on police records.
A PhiladelphiaInquirer story on the stats projected that 2013 will close out with around 250 homicides, an approximate reduction of one-quarter, and credits the drop to new law enforcement strategies.
“To have Philadelphia on record with the lowest number of homicides in years is great, but it’s still too many,” said Shira Goodman, executive director of CeasefirePA. “Those 250 families – for them this drop in deaths is not enough.”
Ray Gant, founder of the Ray of Hope project, who does volunteer clean-up and house rehabilitation work, said the numbers match with reality.
“Crime up here went down tremendously,” said Gant, who works in Frankford, Kensington and North Philadelphia. “At one point, every time you turned on the news, that was the only thing you heard about.”
Gant credits the change with an increased spirit of community involvement from residents.
“As your neighbor begins to clean up, the more cleaner and more sustainable they are, crime has been diminishing,” Gant said. “The more people get involved in their neighborhoods, as far as cleaning up to move and remove the blight, you’ll see change and things start to transform.”
Rev. John B. Hougen, a coordinator at the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, said he's glad homicides are down, and credited community groups, houses of worships, families and schools with working to curb violence.
But it's not enough, he said.
"The number of violent cries and homicides are taking a horrible toll on the people of Philadelphia, and many people do not feel safe, even at this point where homicides are way down," Rev. Hougen said.
Some citizens agreed with the report, while others were more skeptical.
“Yes, now that there’s more police hired, it’s definitely safer,” said Mel Faison, 33, of North Philadelphia. “During the early 90s, things really changed. It’s different now. People are more understanding and compassionate,” he said.
Frank Acosta, 21 of Frankford, agreed with the report, but said crime is still a problem.
“The police are certainly doing a better job,” Acosta said. “But there’s too much crime. It could be better, a lot better.”
Fairmount resident Simone Jacobs, 24, said despite the decline, violence is still a problem.
“I’m always happy if the rate’s declining, but even if there’s less murders, there’s still violence happening,” she said. “It doesn’t mean you’re not hurt, and have to go to the hospital.”
Based on police department records, 1967 was the last year when Philadelphia had less than 234 homicides. The record high is 500 homicides in 1990.
The homicide rate was at its lowest, 16 per every 100,000 residents, in 1984, and peaked at 32 in 1990. Barring an end-of-year spike, it could be back down to 16 at the end of the year.
According to Jim McMillan at GunCrisis.org, the Philadelphia Metropolitan Statistical Area – which includes Camden and Wilmington – had the highest homicide rate per capita in the nation, with 8.6 murders per 100,000 people. New York had 3.8 homicides per 100,000, and Chicago had 7.1.