Philly police see more suburban young people getting involved in city violence

Teens from the suburbs lured by social media are coming into Philadelphia and winding up shot or dead, according to Philly homicide investigators.

Philadelphia Police Department Homicide Captain Jason Smith. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Philadelphia Police Department Homicide Captain Jason Smith. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

More suburban young people are inserting themselves into Philadelphia’s drug culture. That’s the assessment of homicide investigators looking at a series of shootings this year in the city.

Philadelphia Police Department Homicide Captain Jason Smith said it’s becoming more and more common in the recent incidents of violence for young people from outside the city to come in and become part of the violence.

“Honestly, they are caught up in the whole culture,” Smith said. “They see all these Instagram posts, they see videos, they see movies, and a lot of times they want to be gangsters.”

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Captain Smith lays the blame squarely on social media. “They watch the videos on YouTube. We are constantly encountering that during our investigations. And then there’s Instagram posts and they are flashing money and displaying firearms. For some of those kids, they are attracted to that.”

Too often, that attraction ends with young people being shot or killed, he said.

Smith could not say if the youth were using drugs or just trying to make fast cash in the drug trade. Police are awaiting toxicology tests on some of the homicides from this past weekend. Those killings include one shooting where a 17-year-old from Hatfield was killed. His name was withheld because of his age.

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Many other recent homicides in Philadelphia appear to be targeted killings, where people are looking for specific people to shoot, according to Smith.

In other cases, people who have large amounts of cash are targeted. One victim last Saturday, at 5600 Newtown Avenue, had over $3,500 in his pockets when found. Police think the killer might have missed that money when doing a search of the victim’s pockets. In that case, the victim was dumped at the scene and had bleach poured on him to conceal evidence. Police believe his body was dumped and shots fired into the air just to make it appear as if the killing was done where the body was found.

Smith said they are seeking killers and motives in almost half a dozen homicides over the weekend. One case they’ve ruled was a justifiable homicide, as the victim of a home invasion fired a licensed handgun killing his attacker, who was trying to impersonate a law enforcement officer.

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