In his waning days as leader of the Philadelphia Police Department, Commissioner Charles Ramsey touted the declines in crime during his eight-year watch.
Although homicides are up 12 percent this year over last, Ramsey said the numbers must be seen in context.
“This is the first time since 1969 that we’ve had three years in a row with less than 300 murders in Philadelphia,” he said at a news conference Wednesday at the Roundhouse police headquarters.
With two days left, 275 people have been slain in Philadelphia in 2015, up from 249 last year.
Ramsey said homicide cases are solved about half of the time.
The outgoing commissioner lamented that many citizens with knowledge of the killings — and who committed them — are reluctant to come forward despite a $20,000 standing reward for information that leads to conviction.
“In probably 80 to 85 percent of the cases, we have a good idea who committed the crime,” he said. “We just don’t have enough to bring it to trial.”
Ramsey said drug-related homicides drove the uptick, jumping 55 percent from last year.
Despite the increase in slayings, the city experienced a 4.6 percent decline in Part 1 crimes – those counted as serious offenses by FBI.
The number of gunshot victims in Philadelphia rose by 18 percent in 2015 to 1,233. Eighty-four percent of homicide victims died as result of gunfire, up from last year.
“We have a lot of illegal guns out there, and we have a lot of people that aren’t afraid to use guns,” said Ramsey.
Sexual assaults increased 4.5 percent with 1,243 victims.
Robberies, burglaries, thefts and vehicle thefts all declined.
Ramsey’s last day will be Monday. He’ll be replaced by Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross, a long-time veteran of the force who was chosen by Mayor-elect Jim Kenney.
New Year’s security measures in place
Ramsey’s final news conference occurred in the lead up to the New Year, as threats of terrorist attacks have heightened security globally.
Word of a plot to attack sites in Brussels has caused Belgium to cancel a major New Year’s Eve celebration, and other threats have boosted security in cities abroad and in the U.S.
Ramsey said Philadelphia will be ready.
“There’ve been no threats toward Philadelphia. I’m in touch with the FBI constantly,” he said. “But you have to always be vigilant. You have to be aware. You see what’s going on overseas, where they’ve interrupted a couple plots in a couple different countries. So we can’t be naive enough to think that nothing could happen … at the same time, you can’t be paranoid.”
Officers will be out in force on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, especially along the route of the Mummers Parade.
Police will enforce a strict ban on backpacks along the highly trafficked sections of the parade route on South Broad Street. Any opaque bags will be confiscated. Clear bags will be allowed.