Philly putting ‘dozens’ more cops on the street this summer as murders, shootings rise

Murders and shootings are up in Philly over this time last year. The police department will deploy dozens of additional officers to patrol the streets this summer.

Philadelphia Police investigate a shooting in October 2018. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia Police investigate a shooting in October 2018. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Dozens more Philadelphia police officers will hit the city’s streets this summer with hopes of reducing gun violence, the department announced Tuesday.

Several employees will be pulled off administrative work and pressed into patrol duty. Other officers, including members of the department’s highway patrol unit and the narcotics strike force, will work longer shifts to cover “problematic hours,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross.

For some cops, that will mean working between midnight and 3 a.m.

“When you add up the extended tours, as well as the administrative personnel that are going on the street, it will represent dozens and dozens of officers,” said Ross.

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The department’s summer strategy got underway over the Memorial Day weekend but will ramp up after the school year ends June 4.

Dorothy Johnson-Speight, founder of the nonprofit Mothers In Charge, said extra officers don’t hurt, but it’s no panacea for the city’s persistent problem with gun violence.

Community groups need more resources too, she said — for mentoring, conflict resolution, and anger management programs, among other things.

“The police can’t do it all. Simple as that,” said Johnson-Speight.

As of May 27, the city has recorded 131 murders, 10 more than this time last year. Nearly 90% of those homicides are the result of gun violence, said Ross. That figure has hovered closer to 80% in recent years.

The department has made more than 700 arrests for firearms violations, nearly double the total at this time in 2015, said Ross.

Overall crime in the city has remained down since 2016.

“We’re still down to levels not seen since the 1970s,” said Ross.

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