Early last year, Philadelphia made national news for its heartbreakingly high homicide rate. The headline on CNN’s website read: “A bloody start to the year for Philadelphia.”
As of March 29 this year, the city has seen 50 homicides, compared with 84 in 2012, according to police statistics. That’s a 40 percent decrease.
District Attorney Seth Williams said it’s too early to declare success. But he thinks the number of homicides may have dropped partly because of new crime-fighting initiatives spurred by himself and others in the criminal justice system.
“We’re now asking for bail for defendants — $50,000, $100,000 or $200,000 — just for the unlawful possession of a handgun,” he said. “In years past in Philadelphia, if you illegally possessed a gun, you would just get released on your own recognizance.”
City officials said that the bail initiative has also contributed to a recent spike in Philadelphia’s prison population.
A representative of Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, meanwhile, said, “It is too early to claim victory regarding the homicide rates. We will continue our efforts in fighting crime.”
Williams said Philadelphia’s GunStat program, which zeroes in on violent, repeat offenders in specific neighborhoods, also may have helped.
Williams believes this year’s cold winter had something to do with it, too. He’s hoping that the trend continues this summer, a time of year when crime often goes up.