Top cop talks murder — and stopping it

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey knows the city’s homicide rate is on a pace to top last year’s total of 324 murders. He knows crimes like burglaries are also on the rise. He knows there are pockets of the city where residents live in fear.

But he doesn’t get frustrated, he said. Instead, he takes action.

“I deal with the problem,” Ramsey said. “You just have to figure out what you can do.”

Ramsey talked about the city’s homicide rate, the gun culture and his department’s biggest challenges during an exclusive interview with Metro. On the day of the interview, the city had tallied 129 murders. (As of yesterday, that total had reached 324.)

“That should be a year-end total, not a May 18 figure,” Ramsey said. “And even then, that would be too high if your family member was one of the 129.”

Ramsey was appointed by Mayor Nutter in 2008. The year before, the city saw a five-year-high of 391 homicides. Reducing violent crime has been Ramsey’s top priority.

“We’ve been keeping it to down to the low 300s, but that’s way too many people in our city dying,” Ramsey said. “This is a city of 1.5 million people. No way we should have that many murders.”

Indeed, among the nation’s large cities, Philadelphia has the highest rate of murder per capita.
(Smaller cities like New Orleans, which has a higher murder rate, are not included in that tally.)  
If 129 homicides had been a year-end total, Ramsey knows some would see cause for celebration. He says he still wouldn’t be happy.

“I would argue that you would still have many neighborhoods in this city where people do not feel safe,” he said.”

Sound bites
On the biggest challenges facing his department: He’s concerned because his officers are confiscating more assault weapons like AK-47s. A gun’s average time from purchase to crime — or when it’s connected to a crime — is 13 years, he said. “That means that gun’s been out there for a while. It gives you an indication that there is a glut in the market,” he said. Twice in one week in May, he said, police had engaged in shootouts with suspects.
On “broken windows” theory of policing, which says a city should address petty crimes like vandalism because they lead to bigger crimes: “I think it’s very valuable and serves as the foundation for what we now call community policing,” he said. “I think that the decay in a lot of neighborhoods does help support drug crime, there’s no doubt in my mind.” To that end, the department and the city is working with PhillyRising to improve neighborhoods (see accompanying story).
On his department’s homicide clearance rate: It currently tops 70 percent. In 2007, it was 58.6 percent, slightly below the national average. “We have some good detectives that work very hard to clear these cases,” Ramsey said. He said his detectives generally carry five to six cases, whereas “best practices” for police departments puts the number of cases per detective between seven and nine. He also noted that the department has recently partnered with the FBI cold case squad.  
On how to get guns off the street: Punish the people who are illegally carrying more severely. “If I ruled the world, I’d give you 10 years just for having [an illegal gun] — then we’ll talk about whether you did the robbery,” he said. “Every time you rob somebody, point a gun, that’s a potential homicide.”


California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…


Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all…

By Stephanie NebehayGENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance…


North Korean leader's money manager defects in Russia:…

A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper…


MAP: New York City Street Closures August 29,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on August 29, 31 and 31. Several streets and avenues will be…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…


Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.


Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."


Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…


3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.


NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.


Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.


Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.


Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…


4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…


Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…