A veteran police officer was gunned down in North Philadelphia. A grocery store worker, who was unlucky enough to witness a homicide, was later murdered herself. A baby, not even a year old, was killed.
In the end, 329 people were murdered in Philadelphia in 2012, as of Monday.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and city law enforcement officials took steps this year to combat the city’s climbing annual murder rate. However, while the rate is better than it was this summer, it’s still rising slightly. The city saw more homicides this year than in 2011 (324), 2010 (306) and 2009 (302).
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says the murder rate is up partly because shootings have become more deadly.
“When you get shot, you don’t just get shot once. You get shot multiple times with high-caliber weapons,” he says. “We did an analysis for the first half of the year, and we found a 30 percent increase in the number of people shot multiple times.”
Ramsey has been poring over this year’s crime statistics. Believe it or not, he says, there is some good news in the numbers.
“We’re at a record low in shootings over the last decade,” he says. “When you look at homicides — and we went back as far as 1970, looking at homicides — if we stay at 329, it would be the 12th lowest year since 1970.”
District Attorney Seth Williams says requesting higher bail for suspects found with illegal guns is helping.
“Since we instituted that, about 73 percent have remained in custody,” he says. “Slowly, we’re going to get the message out.”
But that initiative has also led to unintended consequences. The higher bail figures have contributed to overcrowding in Philadelphia’s prisons.