Police: Gun crime on the rise in Northwest Philadelphia’s 39th District

Stories of violence and statistics suggesting a significant uptick in gun crimes dominated a meeting between police and community members on Tuesday night in East Falls.

Lt. Edward Bier of the 39th Police District addressed community members’ concerns about recent shootings within their Police Service Area, which includes East Falls and sections of Germantown and North Philadelphia.

At the forefront was discussion of a double shooting that occurred on Saturday, Aug. 25, at the intersection of the 300 block of West Queen Lane in Germantown just after 1 p.m.

The first victim, aged 32, was shot in the hip, and was taken to Temple University Hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.

The second victim, aged 31, was shot in the right shoulder and was taken to Einstein Medical Center, where he was also listed in stable condition.

Lt. Bier was among the officers responding to this shooting, and said that neighborhood reports of bystanders getting caught in the crossfire were false.

Bier said that the gun was not found, nor have any suspects been arrested. However, he said shell casings and a spent bullet were recovered from the scene.

A motive is unknown, and the victims – both allegedly with criminal records – have been uncooperative in providing the police with further details.

“Both of their stories don’t make sense,” said Bier, referencing police reports that the men heard gun shots and realized they were hit.

“They don’t know who shot them,” he said. “It’s the standard story.”

An alarming uptick in local crime 

While unsolved shootings continue to frustrate police, larger crime trends are also disconcerting.

Bier said on Tuesday that PSA-1 has seen a sizable increase in Part One crimes, which is how homicides, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, thefts, and stolen autos are recorded.

This year, as of Aug. 27, there were seven murders in PSA-1, compared to none in 2011. Of these, four occurred in the section of Germantown covered by PSA-1, three in the Abbotsford and Allegheny areas, and zero in East Falls.

There were 20 point-of-gun robberies, compared to five last year. Fifteen of these took place in Germantown, three in East Falls, and two in Abbotsford-Allegheny.

Lastly, there were 31 point-of-gun aggravated assaults, compared to two last year. Twenty-two of these occurred in Germantown, seven in Abbotsford-Allegheny, and two in East Falls.

Bier suggested that many of these crimes were related to the narcotics trade. However, police are making some inroads, with 91 narcotics arrests in PSA-1 to date. Sixty-five of these were in Germantown, 16 in Abbotsford-Allegheny, and 10 in East Falls.

‘The priority is violent crime’ 

However, crime overall is up – not just violent crime.

In April 2012, PSA-1 experienced 180 Part One crimes. May saw 142, June, 139, July, 104, and August, 101.

Is this on the rise? Said Bier: “Yes.”

In 2010, there was an average of 100 Part One crimes per month, and 99 in 2011.

So far, 2012 is averaging 109 Part One offenses per month, amounting to over 3.5 per day.

And while thefts and burglaries will continue to draw the attention of 39th District police, their attention will be oriented to the onslaught on the streets.

“As far as I’m concerned, right now, the priority is the violent crime,” said Bier. “We’ve just got to try to stem this gun violence.”

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