Far too often, family members of the 277 people who were murdered in Philadelphia in 2015 have made pleas like Michelle Stern.
“I’m praying that they find out who did this to my grandson,” Stern said, speaking to Channel 6. “Because he did not deserve this.”
Stern is the grandmother of Xavier Stern, the 15-year-old from Upper Darby who was fatally shot in North Philly in December. Police still haven’t arrested any suspects in connection with the case.
Arrests were made in only about half of the murders committed last year in Philadelphia, leaving the families of victims frustrated and putting many communities on edge.
Police say finding new ways to prosecute violent criminals is no small feat.
Former Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says, for a lot of reasons, the people with answers never step forward.
“Could be intimidation. Could be ‘no snitching,’ could be don’t wanna get involved,” Ramsey said.
When Ramsey took over the department eight years ago, he set up an incentive: police would offer $20,000 to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest of a suspect in any murder — no matter when it happened. But even that hasn’t helped.
“I mean, that’s a lot of money that we put up for that, and it still has not been able to raise our numbers to a point where we have people really stepping forward in large numbers,” he said.
And the most frustrating part, Ramsey said, most of the time, police are aware of the killer’s identity.
“In probably 80, 85 percent of the cases, we have a pretty good idea of who committed the crime,” Ramsey said. “We just don’t have enough evidence to bring it to trial. And that’s a shame because those people stay on the streets.”
That’s a concern, Ramsey said, because when a killer remains at large, that person usually commits other violent crimes, or becomes the victim of one.